Does the Highest Ecclesial Cleric at a Mass Have to Celebrate the Mass?

If say the Pope was going to a Mass, does he have to be the main celebrant? Could he be a concelebrant (i.e. letting a Priest or other Bishop celebrate)? Could he simply attend and sit in the pews with everyone else and receive Communion like everyone else? Could he (or any other ordained cleric) act as an altar server, lector, etc.? Could a Bishop allow a Priest to be celebrant and the Bishop either be concelebrant or whatnot?

Just wondering.

As for the title of the thread, the simple answer is no. In general, the senior priest will preside, and most of the time “should”–especially with regard to the bishop. There are times when this might not necessarily happen, though. The bishop who ordained me liked to attend the first Mass for every newly-ordained priest (as much as he was able), and he sat in a special chair in the sanctuary in cassock and surplice to allow the new priest to truly preside at his own first Mass.

As for a cleric (bishop or priest) simply attending and sitting in the pews, this has a more ambiguous answer. Priests especially have an obligation and a right to concelebrate whenever they are at Mass. Deacons, likewise, but this isn’t always practical. In other words, there is more of an obligation to make accomodations for priests than for deacons. This may happen at, let’s just say for example, the Chrism Mass, where a sufficient number of deacons are already ministering, but (in a large diocese) there might be 100 deacons who are seated in the pews (I say ‘might’ because it’s still more proper for all the deacons to be vested). If there isn’t room in the sanctuary, priests can concelebrate from the pews (obvious example, the Papal Masses in the US in '08).

Priests are not outright forbidden to not-celebrate, but this is frowned upon, and there is an understanding that there has to be a good reason for this. If a priest is ill, or he’s travelling and not known to the pastor of the place, or if he simply arrives late, are some possible reasons. Some religious orders have their own rules on this: there’s at least one recent thread about it.

And yes, a priest could serve the Mass–either in cassock and surplice or even fully vested, but doing the parts which the altar boys normally do (if vested, he’s actually concelebrating). A priest can’t actually “be” a Lector, but a concelebrating priest could certainly do the readings for that particular Mass. Same for the deacons parts. The priest can’t “be” a deacon, but he could do the deacons parts, in the absence of a deacon.

The Extraordinary Form is also an exception, because priests can indeed “be” the deacon or subdeacon (and vest as such).

Would acting as Master of Ceremonies be one such example? I have seen the priest MC vested in cassock and surplice without a stole and not appearing to concelebrate.

Betsy

Well, even if there is no concelebrant, the priest can read the readings, as he is a duly instituted lector. From the General Instructions of the Roman Missal, Paragraph 135: “If no lector is present, the priest himself proclaims all the readings and the Psalm, standing at the ambo.” Likewise, the GIRM says: “If a deacon is not present, his proper duties are to be carried out by some of the concelebrants. In the absence also of other ministers, their proper parts may be entrusted to other suitable members of the faithful; otherwise, they are carried out by some of the concelebrants.” I would imagine that, by the virtue of a priest having been ordained as a deacon and instituted as a lector and an acolyte (per Canon 1035), he should be free to exercise those ministries…

But as far as the initial question is concerned, the GIRM doesn’t mandate that the “highest ecclesial cleric” celebrate (or even concelebrate) the Mass. And as mentioned above, Cardinals and Bishops can merely be “in choir” - dressed in their choir cassocks and surplices and sitting in the sanctuary (usually). You see this a lot with retired bishops - the present bishop will celebrate Mass, but the bishop emeritus will sit in choir.

[quote="baltobetsy, post:3, topic:176880"]
Would acting as Master of Ceremonies be one such example? I have seen the priest MC vested in cassock and surplice without a stole and not appearing to concelebrate.

Betsy

[/quote]

Sure. Just another example.

The term for that is “in choir” I think.

Okay, I found something else in the GIRM:

  1. Every legitimate celebration of the Eucharist is directed by the Bishop, either in person or through priests who are his helpers.

Whenever the Bishop is present at a Mass where the people are gathered, it is most fitting that he himself celebrate the Eucharist and associate priests with himself as concelebrants in the sacred action. This is done not to add external solemnity to the rite but to express in a clearer light the mystery of the Church, “the sacrament of unity.”

Even if the Bishop does not celebrate the Eucharist but has assigned someone else to do this, it is appropriate that he should preside over the Liturgy of the Word, wearing the pectoral cross, stole, and cope over an alb, and that he give the blessing at the end of Mass.

Which means: 1) it is preferred that the [current] Bishop celebrate the Mass, but 2) it is not required that the [current] Bishop celebrate the Mass.

And what we said about the whole “sitting in choir” thing still applies.

A priest is no longer a duly instituted Lector, because once he was ordained a deacon, he ceased to be an instituted Lector. It’s a little different with a priest functioning as a deacon because a deacon is ordained, rather than installed. While an instituted Lector remains one for the rest of his life (it’s permanent) unless he’s later ordained, a deacon remains one for the rest of eternity (it’s ontological).

But yes, regardless of how we arrive at the conclusion, the answer is still the same. A priest can proclaim the readings in the absence of an available duly instituted Lector, and can serve the deacon’s functions in the absence of an available deacon.

[quote="FrDavid96, post:8, topic:176880"]
While an instituted Lector remains one for the rest of his life (it's permanent) unless he's later ordained, a deacon remains one for the rest of eternity (it's ontological).

[/quote]

That is a sweeeeeet distinction. Man, I love the Church... :thumbsup: Thanks for the clarification. :)

In our parish, this is kind of interesting, as we have a Chaldean Sub-Deacon. Since the minor orders were only surpressed in the Latin Church, he is an ordained (small ‘o’) Lector, Acolyte, and of course, Sub-Deacon :wink:

PLeas, correct me if my views are incorrect

I thought that, due to the sacrament of holy orders, a man once ordained a deacon(and so on), was always ordained in the role, just they were later ordained into the priesthood

Therefore, a Bishop would be, at the same time, a deacon, a priest, and a Bishop, and therefore act in any of these roles at Mass

That’s one of those perrenial questions. Bishops receive the fullness of Holy Orders–everyone agrees on this. So, can a bishop function as a deacon because (a) he was previously ordained a deacon, or (b) because the order of deacon exists (subsists) within the order of bishop? The Church has never provided an absolutely definitive answer, and no doubt, many here will post some very strong arguments from both viewpoints, supported by some very solid theologians.

I believe that the simple answer is that if he vests then he is the main celebrant.

Not necessarily. A bishop should PRESIDE, but that doesn’t mean that he celebrantes. He could, for example, give the opening and closing blessings, but not celebrate.

This was an option under the Extraordinary Form ( called a Solemn High Mass in the Presence of a Bishop), and that is pretty much what happened.

Of course, since the Ordinary Form permits, and to a certain extent, almost requires priest to concelebrate if more than one is present in the Sanctuary, that would be exceedingly rare.

I think the subject of dressing in choir needs to be addressed. Several people have hinted at it but it was not explained and the OP mentions it.

The GIRM says:

  1. Among those Masses celebrated by some communities, moreover, the conventual Mass, which is a part of the daily Office, or the community Mass has a particular place. Although such Masses do not have a special form of celebration, it is nevertheless most proper that they be celebrated with singing, especially with the full participation of all members of the community, whether of religious or of canons. In these Masses, therefore, individuals should exercise the office proper to the Order or ministry they have received. *It is appropriate, therefore, that all the priests who are not bound to celebrate individually for the pastoral benefit of the faithful concelebrate at the conventual or community Mass in so far as it is possible. In addition, all priests belonging to the community who are obliged, as a matter of duty, to celebrate individually for the pastoral benefit of the faithful may also on the same day concelebrate at the conventual or community Mass.94 For it is preferable that priests who are present at a Eucharistic Celebration, unless excused for a good reason, should as a rule exercise the office proper to their Order and hence take part as concelebrants, wearing the sacred vestments. Otherwise, they wear their proper choir dress or a surplice over a cassock. * (emphasis mine)

Priests (or bishops or even deacons) who do not celebrate should generally dress in choir. When this is the case they usually sit in the front row of the nave in "choir dress" that is a cassock and surplice. Deacons and "ordinary" priests wear black cassocks. Monsignori can wear two different combinations of colors depending on their rank as a monsignor. Chaplains of His Holiness wear a black cassock with purple piping and sash while all other ranks of monsignori wear a purple cassock with purple piping and sash

Re Bishop sitting in the congregation:

Many years back I went to the closing mass of teen retreat with my daughter. The celebrant did the Gospel with the aid of a sock puppet [which I think is illicit now]. The Gospel was the Last Judgment and the puppet concluded, "... And Jesus turned to those on His left and said, ' Go to Hell.' " The priest said, "That isn't what He said." The puppet perused the page carefully and answered, "That is what He meant."

He told us that one time he was doing this up in the San Fernando Valley. As he was recessing up the main aisle Cardinal McIntyre [who I understand was very much the Old Irish Pastor type] stepped out of one of the last rows. *

The priest noted that the Cardinal had two faces; One was the kindly old grandfather; the other the Supreme Ruler. He was wearing the latter. He asked, "Father, have you done the Gospel that way in all my churches?" Father answered, " No, Your Eminence. I haven't been to all of them yet." The Cardinal told him, "Well please do it for the rest. It is excellent."*

Fr. David,

Your references to “concelebration” I’m sure are toward the OF Mass as there is nothing about “concelebration” in the EF Mass. You are correct that the senior cleric does not have to the celebrant. The Deacon and sub-Deacon can be priests. (EF)

At our local FSSP parish, the Archbishop, recently assisted from the Throne. His Excellency also gave the homily. His mear prescense gave legitimacy and recognition to the Solemn High Mass. Even the local newspaper was impressed.

See the photos here;
michaelcurtis.zenfolio.com/p218988185

[quote="FrDavid96, post:2, topic:176880"]
As for the title of the thread, the simple answer is no. In general, the senior priest will preside, and most of the time "should"--especially with regard to the bishop. There are times when this might not necessarily happen, though.

[/quote]

A recent and widely publicized example is the funeral of Senator Kennedy -- Cardinal O'Malley neither presided nor (IIRC) concelebrated, but attended in choir.

[quote="FrDavid96, post:2, topic:176880"]
Priests are not outright forbidden to not-celebrate, but this is frowned upon, and there is an understanding that there has to be a good reason for this. If a priest is ill, or he's travelling and not known to the pastor of the place, or if he simply arrives late, are some possible reasons.

[/quote]

I witnessed an example of this yesterday, and it seemed to me a good reason. My parish celebrates only a single Mass on Thanksgiving day. It was celebrated by the pastor, but he acknowledged the parochial vicar, who was in the congregation. Pastor explained that PV was not concelebrating because he was on-call for the local hospital, and needed to be able to leave should some patient require the sacraments.

tee

Yes, and so, too, in the “old days” when it would happen regularly. One example is Missa Coram Episcopo where the bishop (in choir dress) presided from the chair but did not celebrate. Such is still done in the EF.

The circumstance is completely understandable, but here I would have thought the vicar would have been attending “in choro” and vested simply in cassock & cotta (or surplice).

Missa Coram Episcopo sounds like what happens when the bishop stays for Mass after doing a traditional Confirmation for us. There are a few differences, here are two examples:

  1. In his Confiteor, the priest says et tibi Pater(and to you, Father(the bishop), instead of et vobis fratres (and to you brethern).
  2. At the end of the Gospel, the priest does not kiss the Missal, the server takes it to the bishop who kisses it.
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