Questions Regarding Summorum Pontificum

I have a number of questions regarding the application of Summorum Pontificum:

  1. Can images, statues and relics be placed directly on or above a newly constructed altar to be used for the Extraordinary Form of Holy Mass?

I know the Cannons Regular of St John Cantius do place reliquaries ON the altar during Mass. Obviously they can keep the statues because the altar is pre-Vatican II. So, I’m curious how the reliquaries would be permissible.

2. I know of parishes that removed the relics from their altar stones after Vatican II, so I’m assuming that occurred in quite a few places. Also, the Ordinary Form of the Mass is celebrated quite often on a standard table-like structure. 

So, a) Is it necessary under Summorum Pontificum to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of Mass on an altar stone and one that b) contains relics? and c) If so, do the relics have to conform to the new guidelines of relics, that they be a recognizable piece of bone, etc?

  1. Are ALL the rites that were in use in 1962 permitted? This would include, but not limited to, the distribution of all Sacraments, (Baptism, Confirmation, Unction, Holy Orders, Matrimony…) dedication of a church or consecration of an altar, enrollment in a religious confraternity or sodality, blessing of sacramentals, use of the 1962 Breviary… If not, which ceremonies or rites are permitted to be performed using the 1962 forms?

  2. If the above are permitted, to what extent then, is the 1983 Code of Cannon Law applicable to those preferring or using the 1962 forms?

  3. Is it permissible to receive Holy Communion in the hand at an EF Mass? I have read divergent opinions on this and need clarification.

  4. Are lay ministers permitted to do the readings at Mass under the EF? I have read divergent opinions on this, as well.

  5. Does Mass under the EF need to be celebrated on an altar consecrated using the 1962 (or prior, if older) rite of consecration?

  6. If an altar had it’s relics removed, would it then need to be a) re-consecrated and if yes, b) would it need to be re-consecrated under the rites of 1962? (letter b, would seem to be redundant to question 7, but actually answers a different question)

Is there a place I can go for clarification on all of these matters ?
What other issues have been raised in this regard?

Thanks in advance.

I don’t know the answer to all so I’ll just reply to the ones I know

Yes, all Traditional Rites are permitted

Yes, the current Canon Law will apply but some documents pertaining to the use of the Old Rite will refer to documents such as the 1962 Missals. I guess unless otherwise specified, then the 1983 Canon Law will apply

Technically, yes. Since the GIRM does not have anything that explicitly forbids receiving CITH pre-V2, the same applies today when there is an indult as such. I have heard some Bishops are working to append the rubrics to restrict Communion to COTT in the EF.

But the question now is, given that there is no law that prevents this, would one be willing to go to an EF Mass and receive CITH knowing that this practice is frowned upon by Traditionalists? It may not be against the law but its prideful in my opinion.

No, it can be done on any altar

No. Some parishes would have a mix of OF and EF Masses, and the parish could have been used exclusively for OF for a few years. There is no need to reconsecrate that altar.

CITH is only allowed by indult in the OF, not the EF. Pope Benedict XVI made it clear that you cannot mix and match between the two forms. The only adaptation is that the readings may be taken from the OF, but, that is it.

SP also states that the faithful may have the following:

§3. For faithful and priests who request it, the pastor should also allow celebrations in this extraordinary form for special circumstances such as marriages, funerals or occasional celebrations, e.g. pilgrimages.

Thus, you could conceivably have a wedding or a funeral Mass celebrated in the EF.

Where in the indult does it say its strictly in the OF?

When one follows the 1962 Missal, that includes everything, including the rubrics. The rubrics for that missal do not allow for CITH. The norm in the EF is to receive kneeling and on the tongue. The only change the SP allowed was that the cycle of readings from the OF may be used, but, that is it.

Nope, no CITH in the EF.

Here is the official word from the Ecclesia Dei Commission. In a letter to a German Catholic, the Commission wrote on June 21, 2010 that:

In reference to your letter of 15. June, this papal commission would like to point out that the celebration of Holy Mass in the extraordinary form envisages the reception of Holy Communion while kneeling, as the Holy Host is laid directly on the tongue of the communicant. There is no provision for the distribution of Holy Communion on the hand in this form of the Holy Mass.

This is actually a swift turnaround respond time by even Vatican standards. You can see the letter in its original German here:

I hope that this helps.


I know there was a contention on that in the past because from what I know there was nothing that says CITH was not allowed in the past as it was a non-issue back then.

Glad you cleared that up.

One of the things I admire about my Orthodox Jewish co-workers is that, whenever one of them makes a pronouncement, the others cry, “Show me INSIDE!!!” Meaning, show me where that is written and who said it in black and white.

Why so much ambiguity over the EF?

Well, here are a few follow-up questions, though I would still like clarification on all my initial points, if you have that info or know where I could be directed–much appreciated.

-So, the 1983 Code of Cannon Law applies to everything except matters concerning EF Rites?

-Glad to hear CITH is NOT permitted at EF masses, my next question would have been, “then why not communion under both kinds?”

-My understanding is that EF masses must be said ON AN ALTAR STONE containing relics. Has that practice been relaxed? Aren’t the relics contained in THAT particular altar stone referenced in the course of every EF mass?

-Can an EF mass be said on one of those table-like structures that people call altars? Are those even consecrated? If Holy Mass in either form no longer needs to be celebrated on a consecrated altar, why not just plop down a suit case and throw some cloths over it?

We need clarification…otherwise every man to his own things once again and we’re back to where we started.

There is not that much ambiguity, HCC. Again, the EF Mass is governed under the Roman Missal of 1962. Actually, in some of the parishes where the EF is celebrated, there is an altar stone and there are communion rails. As I read your post, it seems to me that you are making some generalities about things.

As far as Holy Communion under both kinds is concerned, that is not found in the provisions of the 1962 Roman Missal. Only the celebrant is obliged to do consume both Species and that is to complete the Sacrifice.

Now, regarding just where to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, during wartime (think WWII), it was not uncommon to use the hood of a Jeep as a makeshift altar. In Mexico during that country’s 1910 revolution (and the bloody persecutions that followed), it was not unheard of to have Masses celebrated clandestinely (the churches were closed, sacked or burned down, in some cases), sometimes using a table as a temporary altar. I use these years as points of references.

I don’t think its intentional. Many norms from 1962 have changed. Back then when you say Communion, its automatic that its kneeling and on the tongue.

Canon Law is the law of the Church. It applies to everything. I don’t think Canon Law has specifics on how Masses are celebrated, this is covered by other documents such as the GIRM, RS and applicable 1962 documents like the Roman Missal of 1962

The Cup was witheld in the Latin Rite up until Vatican II. Although I’ve heard some say they receive under both kinds under the TLM, I can’t confirm this or maybe I just misunderstood them.

While most TLM Masses will be held in churches with pre-V2 altars, it has been allowed that the “Pauline Mass altars” be used. This just opens up the EF to be celebrated in any Latin Rite parish.

This is allowed in special cases. Unless you think they transport a marble altar to outdoor Papal Masses

:twocents: I am not aware of any parishes that removed relics? Or at best: if the stone has been removed, it is in a known secure location, eg the sacristy vault, and could be easily replaced – Is that what you meant?


The readings inside the Mass can be in vernacular from an approved text as well, although the sermon generally starts with the readings in vernacular as well.

I’m not sure but I think the paten is required as well when servers are available. No altar girls, only priest or deacon distributes communion at a communion rail or set-up kneelers.

As far as fasting before communion, same 1-hr rule applies as in OF. Also one can receive twice in one day provided the second time is at a full Mass. Veils for women optional as in OF. Rules may be stricter for small chapels though.

Almost all who attend an EF are okay with these rules.

tee_eff_em, Thanks for your response. No, that would most likely be a collection of relics contained in reliquaries that your parish church has. This description from Wikipedia might help:

**In Roman Catholic Churches, an altar stone is a solid piece of natural stone, consecrated by a bishop.[1]

Before the Second Vatican Council, Mass could only lawfully be celebrated on a properly consecrated altar.* This consecration was carried out by a bishop, and involved specially blessed “Gregorian Water” (water to which wine, salt, and ashes are added),[2] anointings and ceremonies. The relics of at least two saints, at least one of which had to be a martyr, were inserted in a cavity in the altar which was then sealed, a practice that was meant to recall the use of martyrs’ tombs as places of Eucharistic celebration during the persecutions of the Church in the first through third centuries. Also in the cavity were sealed documents relating to the altar’s consecration. The tabletop of the altar, the “mensa”, had to be of a single piece of natural stone (almost always marble). Its supports had to be attached to the mensa. If contact was later broken even only momentarily (for instance, if the top was lifted off for some reason), the altar lost its consecration. Every altar had to have a “title” or “titulus” in Latin. This could be The Holy Trinity or one of its Persons; a title or mystery of Christ’s life (Christ the Good Shepherd; the Holy Cross); Mary in one of her titles (Mother of Christ; Our Lady of Good Counsel); or a canonized saint. The main altar of a church had to have the same title as the church itself (for instance, there are many “side altars” in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York, but the “high altar” in the center is dedicated to St. Patrick). This reflected the idea that the altar was the key element, and the church was built to house it, as opposed to the church being built and simply supplied with an altar as part of its furniture.

Obviously, these regulations would have made it impossible to celebrate Mass anywhere but inside of a Roman Catholic church. To provide for other circumstances—for chaplains of everything from military to Boy Scout units, for priests traveling alone, for missionaries, or for large outdoor celebrations of Mass on pilgrimages—portable altars, popularly called “altar stones,” were used. These were usually blocks of marble, often about 6 inches by 9 inches and an inch thick, consecrated as described above. A priest with a field kit could simply place this stone on any available surface (a tailgate, or a stump or log) to celebrate Mass, or it could be inserted in a flat frame built into the surface of a wooden altar. Many Roman Catholic schools had a full-sized, decoratively carved wooden altar (which, being wood, could not be consecrated) in their gym or auditorium that could be taken out and prepared for Mass, with an altar stone placed in the “mensa” space.

The privilege of using a portable altar was not automatically conferred on any priest. Cardinals and bishops normally had such rights under canon law, but other priests had to be given specific permission—this was, however, easily and widely obtained.

Today, a consecrated altar is no longer necessary for the lawful celebration of Mass, so priests in the field or elsewhere may use any table. Chapels often have wooden altars today, which may be blessed (as opposed to consecrated). Parish churches and cathedrals should have a consecrated altar, however, still made of stone, though the ceremonies for the consecration are somewhat simplified. Side altars, once common in churches because priests could not normally concelebrate before Vatican II and so had to offer Mass individually, are now frowned upon.

That an altar be built of stone goes back to the Bible. For example, Elijah built his altar of twelve stones:

He took twelve stones, for the number of tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the LORD had said, "Your name shall be Israel." He built an altar in honor of the LORD with the stones, and made a trench around the altar large enough for two seahs of grain. (1 Kings 18:31-33) *

My question then is, is it necessary now, if no mixing of rites is permitted, to celebrate the EF of Holy Mass on an altar stone ONLY? If so, why not? And has anything been said offically regarding this subject?

Just curious if anyone has any information on my original question or who could direct me?


I do not feel competent to answer all your questions but would like to answer some that you raise about altars.

I do not know whether churches removed relics from altars after VII. I have never understood what the altar stone was. Did it refer to the entire altar or just part of it?

Anyway to check up some of your points I looked up something that I thought was in the Ceremonial of Bishops. Regarding altars it says that the following are still the preferred norms of the Church:

  1. An altar should be fixed and immovable;
  2. An altar should be preferably made of natural stone;
  3. An altar should contain the relics of a saint or saints.

Now I don’t know whether these terms have different meanings or if it’s just a case of semantics. You asked whether altars are still consecrated. The rite described in the Ceremonial of Bishops from which I gleaned the above information is called the dedication of an altar. If my memory serves me correctly altars may have always been dedicated because I once remember reading somewhere that people are consecrated but that objects and places are dedicated.

Hope this helps.

Sort of. A Motu Proprio is the highest form of Church Law ( it is even higher than an Apostolic Constitution, such as Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concillium.

Since Summorum Pontificum specified that the rubrics for the 1962 Missal were to be maintained, that would be higher than Canon Law if they conflicted.

The Cup was witheld in the Latin Rite up until Vatican II. Although I’ve heard some say they receive under both kinds under the TLM, I can’t confirm this or maybe I just misunderstood them.

Given the chalice, no. But the reception of both species via Intinction was not unheard of. Both of my parents recieved their First Holy Communion that way in Ireland, and it was also offered that way on Holy Thursday.

One quibble: that’s backwards. An Apostolic Constitution is the highest form of Papal decree. (See, e.g., here). An encyclical is next, and then other documents issued motu proprio at the bottom.

Hi Matthew,

Thanks for your post, that info was helpful. Just to clarify 2 points you mentioned:

re: Altar Stones:
re: Consecration of Altars:

Scroll down to # 60. Seems not all altars are the same.

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