No Diocesan Priestly Faculties Granted

There is a priest who is a founder of a religious community who has come into our diocese to establish his house of formation and has been here for the past year. He has never applied to have priestly faculties within this diocese. If he holds a private mass who is allowed to attend? He claims that he is allowed by something he calls "universal faculties" to have up to 50 people at a private mass. Is this true?

Thank you

It’s possible that he is permitted by his Bishop to celebrate Mass for his community members, within his community, not members of the general population of the diocese.

[quote="juicekman, post:1, topic:177222"]
There is a priest who is a founder of a religious community who has come into our diocese to establish his house of formation and has been here for the past year. He has never applied to have priestly faculties within this diocese. If he holds a private mass who is allowed to attend? He claims that he is allowed by something he calls "universal faculties" to have up to 50 people at a private mass. Is this true?

Thank you

[/quote]

I don't know enough about the situation, so let's say for the sake of discussion that this priest does indeed have faculties from his own ordinary (whoever that might be), and that everything else is "in order."

The direct answer to your question "who is allowed to attend?" the response is "anyone." Because any Catholic may attend any Mass at any time/place--again, assuming that everything about the Mass is licit in the first place.

The real question is "whom is he permitted to invite?" That's a different issue altogether, and that's a matter which has to be decided by the bishop of the local diocese, if he's actually inviting people who are not part of his community, and doing so on a regular basis.

I think that for purposes of this discussion here on this thread, it would be helpful if you could explain your reason for asking the question in the first place. Here's what I mean by that: if you're just asking because you're curious about how canon law treats/defines priestly faculties, that would bring one answer, but if you're concerned that this priest is trying to do something to undermine the local bishop, that be cause for a different answer, and of course it could be any number of other reasons as well. So don't be offended, and don't take it the wrong way, but plase tell us why you're asking.

A number of us are living at one of the houses that this religious order owns, but none of us are part of the order. It is called a "discernment house." All of us are paying rent to live here. He maintains that all of us can attend his "private mass," even though he has not received sacramental faculties from the diocese or even applied for them. From what I have read it seems that the definition of "private mass" is a mass with only the priest and possibly an altar server, not with 50 or less people as he maintains.

If you reply to this can you please site some support for your answer? (Code of Canon law, etc.) I have already received too many conflicting opinions, I need some solid facts.

Thank you.

[quote="juicekman, post:4, topic:177222"]
A number of us are living at one of the houses that this religious order owns, but none of us are part of the order. It is called a "discernment house." All of us are paying rent to live here. He maintains that all of us can attend his "private mass," even though he has not received sacramental faculties from the diocese or even applied for them. From what I have read it seems that the definition of "private mass" is a mass with only the priest and possibly an altar server, not with 50 or less people as he maintains.

If you reply to this can you please site some support for your answer? (Code of Canon law, etc.) I have already received too many conflicting opinions, I need some solid facts.

Thank you.

[/quote]

Still need additional information.

What order is this? If it is an order of pontifical right then no priest within the order requires the local ordinaries approval to celebrate in a canonically erected house of the order.
Any one may be invited but they could not advertise this as a public Mass.

[quote="juicekman, post:4, topic:177222"]
A number of us are living at one of the houses that this religious order owns, but none of us are part of the order. It is called a "discernment house." All of us are paying rent to live here. He maintains that all of us can attend his "private mass," even though he has not received sacramental faculties from the diocese or even applied for them. From what I have read it seems that the definition of "private mass" is a mass with only the priest and possibly an altar server, not with 50 or less people as he maintains.

If you reply to this can you please site some support for your answer? (Code of Canon law, etc.) I have already received too many conflicting opinions, I need some solid facts.

Thank you.

[/quote]

I might be able to quote the canons, but before I go looking, I need to know a little more about the situation, and still a little more about what you're asking.

The first question I have is this: does this priest indeed have faculties to celebrate Mass from his own ordinary? I understand that he doesn't have them from the local bishop, but I don't know whether or not he has them to begin with--do you know?. The fact that he hasn't applied to the local bishop might be cause for concern--it may very well mean nothing at all, but on the other hand, it may mean that he knows he would be refused, or even that the bishop couldn't grant him faculties even if he wanted to. Is he even a Catholic priest? Are you sure he's a genuine Catholic priest and not just someone calling himself that? I'm not asking this to be accusatory--so don't think that's what I mean. He may be a perfectly legitimate Catholic priest, and part of a perfectly legitimate order--but I'm saying that I don't know.

There is no such thing as a "private Mass"--that's just a colloquialism, although there's nothing wrong with using it sometimes. I can tell you that there is no such provision in canon law which says that a priest can have up to 50 people at Mass before he informs the local bishop. The term "private Mass" is sometimes used to describe a Mass said by the priest alone or with just one altar boy--that much is true, but that's actually taking us off-topic.

If that priest is indeed acting entirely within the law when he celebrates Mass in his own "discernment house," then there is nothing prohibiting a Catholic person from attending that Mass if he does so completely of his own volition.

Since you are already living in the building, and you know the Mass is happening, you're free to attend without any reservations. The only time this would be a problem would be if that particular priest was specifically told by his own bishop that he is only permitted to celebrate Mass if no one else is present (in other words, if the priest is suspended), or if the local bishop has outright denied him the faculties to celebrate a Mass attended by anyone else within that diocese. Either or both of those are unlikely but not impossible.

My concern here is that there's some kind of situation where the bishop might have said "don't bother applying because I'll deny you" and this priest responded by simply not applying, so that he could later say "I was never refused." I do hope that is not the case here. It's the lack of information which causes me to be concerned. Legitimate religious orders are usually quite open and frank about what they're doing. I am getting the impression, and again hope I'm wrong, that this community is somehow operating "in secret" and that causes me to worry.

Can you say anything more about this community or this house of formation/discernment?

If you're not comfortable sharing details, at least know this: if the priest is legitimate, and has faculties from his own bishop to celebrate Mass in public, and he has not been denied that by the local bishop, then there is nothing wrong with you voluntarily attending his Mass. The number 50 means nothing here.

On another note, please do answer this one: what sort of "conflicting information" have you been given? Perhaps there's a misunderstanding there. For example I can say that the statement "as long as there aren't 50 people, it's kosher" is not true--but it's untrue because there's no such threshold of 50, not because people can't attend.

[quote="ByzCath, post:5, topic:177222"]
Still need additional information.

What order is this? If it is an order of pontifical right then no priest within the order requires the local ordinaries approval to celebrate in a canonically erected house of the order.
Any one may be invited but they could not advertise this as a public Mass.

[/quote]

Thank you for your reply. It is not an order of pontifical right.

That is a bit weird. I could see it for a fly-in, fly-out to the house, but for a year? Is there a reason this priest isn't comfortable with the background check, has he burned some political bridges with the local bishop, or what? Is this a leadership or obedience issue that shows itself elsewhere in the order? A simple dislike of taking the trouble to comply with forms? Maybe it is nothing, but I'd be a little concerned to be discerning with an order where the founder and the local bishop were not demonstrably on excellent terms.

If it concerns you, you could ask the priestly vocations director for your diocese, I guess.

[quote="juicekman, post:4, topic:177222"]
A number of us are living at one of the houses that this religious order owns, but none of us are part of the order. It is called a "discernment house." .

[/quote]

there are 2 separate issues, his own priestly faculties in your diocese, and permission from your bishop for his order to set up any kind of foundation at all in this diocese. I would make it my business to call the chancery tomorrow and find out from the bishop's office if he has permission for anything he is doing, and for clarification of your own position.

[quote="puzzleannie, post:9, topic:177222"]
there are 2 separate issues, his own priestly faculties in your diocese, and permission from your bishop for his order to set up any kind of foundation at all in this diocese. I would make it my business to call the chancery tomorrow and find out from the bishop's office if he has permission for anything he is doing, and for clarification of your own position.

[/quote]

Seeing that you are in a house of discernment and this man seems, from my reading, to be the superior of the house I would take the time to talk to him about this first. Do it as though you are trying to learn the intricacies of this issue.

I caution this because calling the chancery may hurt your discernment with this order, especially if you are mistaken on this.

[quote="ByzCath, post:10, topic:177222"]
Seeing that you are in a house of discernment and this man seems, from my reading, to be the superior of the house I would take the time to talk to him about this first. Do it as though you are trying to learn the intricacies of this issue.

I caution this because calling the chancery may hurt your discernment with this order, especially if you are mistaken on this.

[/quote]

a house divided against itself cannot stand, as Jesus reminded us when warning about demons. The Church does not work against herself if the work is authentic. If this order has not permission to operate in this diocese, a person cannot be in discernment for that order within that diocese. That is not to imply that there is any wrong-doing. Since this priest is also the founder of the order it may be very new, and the necessary approvals just have not yet happened, since these things take time, but since OP has raised the question, I have advised OP to check with the bishop's office before he wastes time and effort (and possibly money) that could better be directed to a more solid discernment path.

my brother was discerning for an order based in Canada, and working one on one with a monk of the order (with permission of his bishop) but the necessary visas for the Canadian members could not be obtained, so that is on hold for now. it may be simply a situation like that with nothing to do with the work of the order or the individual priest.

I would agree with you if he were not already living in the discernment house. When one enters into such a relationship there is the matter of obedience to look at.

Also, truly, we do not know the whole story. All we have is what the poster is telling us, which may be the truth, or he could be mistaken.

As the scriptures say, if we have a problem with a brother we should go to the brother first before involving the Church.

We also need to keep something else in mind:

Just because a priest of one diocese is living in another diocese, does not necessarily mean that he must have faculties from that diocese. There are any number of reasons why a priest might not apply to the local diocese for faculties.

Let me give just one example:

A priest of diocese "A" retires. He's a very good and holy priest. He's not suspended. He has full faculties from his own diocese. He moves to diocese "B" for his retirement. Unless he's going to function in diocese B on a regular basis, there's no need for him to make a formal application to receive formal faculties from diocese B. He might have verbal permission from bishop B, or he might even have a formal letter of introduction from bishop B to the pastors of diocese B, but just not a pagella of faculties (that's the formal, canonical letter granting faculties).

The fact that this priest doesn't have faculties from the diocese it not the reason why I keep replying here, but my reason is that the priest is giving an explanation that doesn't have any foundation in canon law (the 50 person rule, which doesn't exist in the universal law). If the priest had simply said "because I don't intend to minister in the parishes of this diocese, but I'm limiting myself to my own community I haven't applied for faculties" I think this thread would be going in a different "direction."

[quote="FrDavid96, post:13, topic:177222"]
We also need to keep something else in mind:

Just because a priest of one diocese is living in another diocese, does not necessarily mean that he must have faculties from that diocese. There are any number of reasons why a priest might not apply to the local diocese for faculties.

Let me give just one example:

A priest of diocese "A" retires. He's a very good and holy priest. He's not suspended. He has full faculties from his own diocese. He moves to diocese "B" for his retirement. Unless he's going to function in diocese B on a regular basis, there's no need for him to make a formal application to receive formal faculties from diocese B. He might have verbal permission from bishop B, or he might even have a formal letter of introduction from bishop B to the pastors of diocese B, but just not a pagella of faculties (that's the formal, canonical letter granting faculties).

The fact that this priest doesn't have faculties from the diocese it not the reason why I keep replying here, but my reason is that the priest is giving an explanation that doesn't have any foundation in canon law (the 50 person rule, which doesn't exist in the universal law). If the priest had simply said "because I don't intend to minister in the parishes of this diocese, but I'm limiting myself to my own community I haven't applied for faculties" I think this thread would be going in a different "direction."

[/quote]

Nevertheless, most bishops are being a great deal more conservative about this since the abuse scandal. They are more conscious of their responsibility to the faithful to investigate the background of anyone doing public ministry in their diocese. The kind of flying under the radar that this priest is doing may have been common in the past, and almost never in bad faith, so I wouldn't be too suspicious, but it is less and less being permitted, because of predators who did take advantage of the opportunity it presents. With fewer and fewer opportunities, the chances that the remaining opportunities will be exploited do go up substantially.

I think that anyone who brought this to the chancery office as a question could easily be assured that their question and identity would be kept confidential. It isn't an accusation, but only a question.

Also, it would be better for the order if everyone bent over backwards to comply with the bishops' charter to prevent abuse, both in spirit and to the letter. The Church has a big job before her to rebuild lost faith, and everyone of good faith should be willing to pitch in. This priest needs to join the 21st century, and get with it.

[quote="EasterJoy, post:14, topic:177222"]
Nevertheless, most bishops are being a great deal more conservative about this since the abuse scandal. They are more conscious of their responsibility to the faithful to investigate the background of anyone doing public ministry in their diocese. The kind of flying under the radar that this priest is doing may have been common in the past, and almost never in bad faith, so I wouldn't be too suspicious, but it is less and less being permitted, because of predators who did take advantage of the opportunity it presents. With fewer and fewer opportunities, the chances that the remaining opportunities will be exploited do go up substantially.

I think that anyone who brought this to the chancery office as a question could easily be assured that their question and identity would be kept confidential. It isn't an accusation, but only a question.

Also, it would be better for the order if everyone bent over backwards to comply with the bishops' charter to prevent abuse, both in spirit and to the letter. The Church has a big job before her to rebuild lost faith, and everyone of good faith should be willing to pitch in. This priest needs to join the 21st century, and get with it.

[/quote]

Please keep in mind the point I'm trying to make. The absense of formal faculties does not necessarily mean that the priest is "flying under the radar." Sometimes it happens that priests are indeed known to the bishop, and the bishop might have exercised all reasonable due dilligence in welcoming the priest (even as far as a background check if appropriate). It also happens that bishops will welcome visiting priests to a diocese, and even send circular letters to the pastors stating that the priest is welcome to celebrate Mass at the parishes--even though faculties as such haven't been granted for some reason--and that reason is usually because they're not strictly-speaking necessary since he already has them from his own proper bishop.

In a certain cense, faculties can be like a driver's license--if a person has it from one state, he can still drive in another state and it's perfectly legal. One only needs to apply for a new license if he's actually establishing a legal residence in that new state. If someone says "I don't have a license from this state" that could mean that he didn't need to apply for one, or it could mean that his license has been revoked; but the statement all by itself doesn't tell us which one applies.

We do know that the priest being discussed in this thread doesn't have faculties from the local bishop. But we need to keep in mind that we have no idea whatsoever why he doesn't have those faculties. It could be because he doesn't need them in his particular situation, or it could be that something isn't quite in-order (which is very very unlikely if he's a validly ordained priest to begin with--because if that were the case, the bishop would notice, and take appropriate action).

What I'm still curious to know is what sort of "conflicting information" the OP has about this situation.

[quote="FrDavid96, post:15, topic:177222"]
Please keep in mind the point I'm trying to make. The absense of formal faculties does not necessarily mean that the priest is "flying under the radar." Sometimes it happens that priests are indeed known to the bishop, and the bishop might have exercised all reasonable due dilligence in welcoming the priest (even as far as a background check if appropriate). It also happens that bishops will welcome visiting priests to a diocese, and even send circular letters to the pastors stating that the priest is welcome to celebrate Mass at the parishes--even though faculties as such haven't been granted for some reason--and that reason is usually because they're not strictly-speaking necessary since he already has them from his own proper bishop.

In a certain cense, faculties can be like a driver's license--if a person has it from one state, he can still drive in another state and it's perfectly legal. One only needs to apply for a new license if he's actually establishing a legal residence in that new state. If someone says "I don't have a license from this state" that could mean that he didn't need to apply for one, or it could mean that his license has been revoked; but the statement all by itself doesn't tell us which one applies.

We do know that the priest being discussed in this thread doesn't have faculties from the local bishop. But we need to keep in mind that we have no idea whatsoever why he doesn't have those faculties. It could be because he doesn't need them in his particular situation, or it could be that something isn't quite in-order (which is very very unlikely if he's a validly ordained priest to begin with--because if that were the case, the bishop would notice, and take appropriate action).

What I'm still curious to know is what sort of "conflicting information" the OP has about this situation.

[/quote]

I know what you mean; I'm just saying that there is a reason that getting the "i"s dotted and the "t"s crossed has become more of an issue, inside the chancery offices and out. This is a situation that has been abused at times in the past.

Upon re-reading his posts, we can note that he didn't say he had gotten conflicting information. He wrote that he had gotten too many conflicting opinions. I think he means that everyone he's taken this to has a take on the situation, but nobody has cited anything but their own opinion as the basis for what they have to say, and there is no clear consensus among the opinions. He wants to know what the letter of the law actually says about this broad type of situation, because opinions are giving him no clear sense of how he wants to handle the matter himself.

I think you've been the most helpful on that, but upon re-reading his posts, I now see that he just wants to know two things:
From the standpoint of applicable Church law or established precedent, not personal opinion
1) What are the priest's duties and legitimate options in such a case?
2) What are the OP's duties and legitimate options in such a case?
3) Why? Where did the answers to 1 & 2 come from?

It is my understanding from OP, and I could be reading it wrong, is that he has already asked the priest in question about his issue, and he still is not satisfied with the answer, and is asking what should be his next step, or if he needs to be concerned at all, and specifically if it is okay to attend Mass with this priest while he resides in this house.

[quote="FrDavid96, post:15, topic:177222"]
We do know that the priest being discussed in this thread doesn't have faculties from the local bishop. But we need to keep in mind that we have no idea whatsoever why he doesn't have those faculties. It could be because he doesn't need them in his particular situation, or it could be that something isn't quite in-order (which is very very unlikely if he's a validly ordained priest to begin with--because if that were the case, the bishop would notice, and take appropriate action).

What I'm still curious to know is what sort of "conflicting information" the OP has about this situation.

[/quote]

I've been quietly following this thread through its various twists and turns, and I agree that it seems the OP is being (IMO) somewhat (overly?) circumspect in the information provided. But one thing was said that is rather telling:

[quote="juicekman, post:7, topic:177222"]
It is not an order of pontifical right.

[/quote]

Perhaps faculties as such are not required but, absent Pontifical Rite, (and I could well be mistaken about this), does not a religious institute need local episcopal approbation to establish itself in a particular diocese?

To establish a new house, yes.
Unless, of course, the group has been approved by any of:

  1. The pope (for international or universal groups)
  2. The episcopal conference (for national groups)
  3. the council of hierarchs or synod of a Sui Iuris Church (within the territories of their constituent sees and exarchates)
  4. the ordinary of a prelature or ordinariate established by the above groups per canon law within their assigned territorial overlap
  5. a bishop of a Sui Iuris Church with overlapping jurisdiction.

To continue to hold a house already established, no. A bishop can suppress a diocesan association of the Faithful (including religious), the episcopal conference can do so for national organizations, and the pope (or sui iuris synod) for international groups. But such suppression requires grave reason. Once the door is opened, it’s hard to shut.

(intratext.com/IXT/ENG0017/_P11.HTM)

One should note that, at present, Opus Dei is a pontifical right personal prelature; military ordinariates are established as national conference-right ordinariates/prelatures. The Anglican Ordinariate, once established, will be likewise be erected by the national conference, but of papal rite.

Your 3 questions are indeed relevant and important. But no one can yet answer those because we don’t know the status of the priest himself.

Here’s what I can say, though: if everything else is “in order” and that priest is legitimately saying Mass, then any Catholic person can voluntarily attend that Mass.

Canon 912 Any baptized person who is not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to Holy Communion.

So, if a baptized (not otherwise prohibited) person shows up at a Mass (any Mass) that person can fully participate.

A priest cannot say to someone “you’re not from my diocese” or “I’m not from your diocese” and “therefore, you can’t come” If one must be admitted to Communion itself, then it stands to reason that one must also be admitted to participating in the Mass. A person can’t have a right to the “whole” (full participation by receiving Communion) but not at the same time have a right to the “part” (the act of attending the Mass).

There is no canon which says that a person is prohibited from attending any legitimate Mass. The only thing that even comes close says the exact opposite (canons 837 & 923)

However, priests cannot establish a parish (mission, etc.) without the bishop’s consent–in fact, only the bishop can do this. So a priest cannot necessarily “invite” people without the bishop’s consent. That’s why I answered in the beginning that anyone may attend, but the priest is restricted in whom he may invite.

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