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Every week or so will ask some questions of Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., founder of Ignatius Press and Chancellor of Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida since 2002. If you have a question about the Catholic Church, Ignatius Press, or current events you would like to ask Fr. Fessio, please send it to editor Carl Olson and he will consider asking Fr. Fessio to respond to it.

Here are five questions for the week of August 29th:

Q: I am confused. Are the SSPX [Society of Saint Pius X] in schism and if a priest says the Tridentine Mass with them, is it a valid Mass? I have read many conflicting articles and it depends on who wrote them.

Fr. Fessio: My understanding is that the Tridentine Masses celebrated by the SSPX are valid but not licit. You ask about a priest saying the Tridentine Mass "with them". There is no provision for concelebration of the Tridentine Mass so I presume you’re asking whether a priest who is validly ordained and in good standing can celebrate a Tridentine Mass for people who are in the SSPX. I don’t think a priest should do that but I believe he could. That is, he would be disobedient to his bishop or to the proper authority over him in the Catholic Church, but the Mass he celebrated would be a valid Mass.

Q: What's going on with the Reform of the Reform? Yes, we've seen some good documents on the Eucharist and a slowdown in ICEL's influence, but we've seen a set back when the USCCB mandated that standing is the normative posture for receive Communion. Is the Reform of the Reform gaining any ground anywhere? Is there any movement on re-translating the Novus Ordo or even modifying the rubrics to more faithfully reflect what Vatican II intended? Can the new Liturgical Institute started by Cardinal George be seen as a positive development?

Fr. Fessio: I believe that the "reform of the reform" has made progress. You mention the USCCB mandating standing as a normative posture to receive Communion. However, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has made it clear that this is not a norm in the sense of a requirement. Rather, Catholics are free to receive communion standing or kneeling at their choice. The relevant letter from that congregation can be seen at the Adoremus web site.

The Novus Ordo has been re-translated the draft has already been circulating. In the form in which I saw it, it was a great improvement on the previous (mis)translation. Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Australia is the chairman of Vox Clara, the commission which is overseeing this translation so I have every hope that it will be a vast improvement over what we now have.

My own view is that no rubrics really have to be modified in order to reflect more faithfully what Vatican II intended for the Mass. There are many legitimate options in the Novus Ordo. Many priests regularly choose those options which are most in continuity with the Church’s continuous liturgical tradition.

I do think that Cardinal George’s new Liturgical Institute is a positive development.

Q: Why do we in our US Catholic Churches have female altar servers?

Fr. Fessio: The answer to your question is much more complex than the matter appears.

I have it on authority of a Roman canonist who has been involved that even to this day, technically, female altar servers are not permitted by the Code of Canon Law. There has been a permission given to bishops to allow female altar servers in their dioceses. Note that this is only a permission to allow, not to require. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has clearly shown its preference for the traditional male altar servers and also made it clear that no priest can be required to have female altar servers.

However, bishops are not reluctant to overstep their authority and introduce the practice as a requirement. Since priests who do not go along with this can be reassigned to unpopular places, and because good priests want to obey their bishops even when the bishops are not speaking authoritatively, the practice has become widespread.

Q: If God created everything and everything was created for His purpose then it goes without saying that He loves everything He created. Than why does the Church hate homosexuals?

Fr. Fessio: The Church doesn’t hate homosexuals any more than the Church hates alcoholics or cancer patients. All involve disorders.

Q: Can someone on your staff find out if the Bishops’ committee on catechesis or religious education has in place a test for testing what religious education teachers know about Catholic doctrine and discipline, as a criterion for their being used as teachers or catechists?

Fr. Fessio:
I think that you could find the answer yourself by calling the office of the Bishop’s committee on catechesis. But I doubt they have such a test in existence or even as an idea. The committee has done, in my opinion, a very good job of reviewing the texts that are used in religious education. While I still think the Ignatius Press texts are the best out there, I have to say there has been great improvement in the doctrinal content of many other series.

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