Every week or so IgnatiusInsight.com 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 IgnatiusInsight.com
editor Carl Olson and he will consider asking Fr. Fessio to respond
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 youre 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 dont 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 Churchs continuous
I do think that Cardinal Georges new Liturgical Institute is a positive
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 doesnt 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
Bishops 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.