Can this be right?

Having just written my comment on the transferral of feasts from their traditional day to the Sunday, I have found this note on the facebook page of St Luke’s Ordinariate Community in Washington, DC, which has  truly astonished me:

REMINDER: This Thursday, May 14th, is Ascension Thursday.
For members of this Ordinariate parish, it is a holyday of
obligation. Please attend mass this Thursday at any
convenient parish—it does not need to be a mass which is
celebrated for the feast. If you are unable to attend any mass
this Thursday, please see Fr. Lewis after mass this morning, or
contact him by phone or email, to obtain a dispensation from
this obligation.

Surely it is not the day of the week, Thursday, which is the holy day of obligation, but the Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord. If I am worshiping in a diocese where the Ascension is celebrated on a different day, it cannot be correct that I should attend any Mass celebrated on the weekday concerned, even if the feast itself is not being celebrated.

Let me give you a concrete example. The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham celebrates the Ascension on Sunday, but in the diocese where I live in Germany the Ascension is celebrated on Thursday. Do I really have no obligation to attend the solemn Ascension Mass on Thursday, because the circumscription to which I belong canonically happens to celebrate on another day? This cannot be right. Someone who attends the Ascension Mass on Sunday in a US diocese surely does not need a dispensation of any kind for failing to attend a midweek ferial Low Mass on Thursday.

David Murphy

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6 Responses to Can this be right?

  1. EPMS says:

    http://calgaryordinariate.weebly.com/uploads/2/9/1/6/2916698/notices_10_may_15_%28easter_vi_-_may_devotion%29.pdf
    This bulletin also refers to the fact that Ascension Thursday is a holy day of obligation: “Please note that this day is a Holy Day of Obligation [underlined]. Ordinariate members are, unless impeded, obliged to be at Mass today.”

  2. EPMS says:

    Another reference: http://www.ordinariateparish.org/new-blog/ – “(on this Holy Day of Obligation)”. Doesn’t seem to be any nuancing in these announcements, so if your interpretation is the correct one, Mr Murphy, it did not make it out to the clergy in question. Another example of the divergent Prayer Book Anglican/”Romanising” tendencies of the OCSP and OOLW, respectively.

  3. Paul Waddington says:

    The obligation on a Holyday of Obligation is to attend Mass, and not any particular Mass. Thus it is quite permissible to attend a Mass which is not the Mass of the Ascension, to fulfil the obligation. The more complicated issue is the actual day of the week which is to be considered the feast day – ie the actual day or the transferred external solemnity. The general rule is to adopt the practice of the location (diocese or country). It seems that there is a grey area in the case of Ordinariate members where the Ordinariate is heavily integrated into a diocesan parish. In that case, I would say that it is up to the individual to decide which practice to follow.

  4. Rev22:17 says:

    David,

    You wrote: Having just written my comment on the transferral of feasts from their traditional day to the Sunday, I have found this note on the facebook page of St Luke’s Ordinariate Community in Washington, DC, which has truly astonished me….

    There does seem to be a major misapplication of Catholic ecclesial law in the quotation that follows this comment. Note the second section of Canon 12 of the Codex Juris Canonici (Code of Canon Law).

    Can. 12 §1. Universal laws bind everywhere all those for whom they were issued.

    §2. All who are actually present in a certain territory, however, are exempted from universal laws which are not in force in that territory.

    §3. Laws established for a particular territory bind those for whom they were issued as well as those who have a domicile or quasi-domicile there and who at the same time are actually residing there, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 13.

    It appears that this canon dispenses members of an ordinariate who are “actually present in” any diocese where a holy day is not observed on the day prescribed in the general calendar. Nevertheless, I have not verified this with a canon lawyer so it’s entirely plausible that I’m overlooking some nuance related to the fact that the ordinariates are personal jurisdictions rather than territorial jurisdictions.

    You wrote: Let me give you a concrete example. The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham celebrates the Ascension on Sunday, but in the diocese where I live in Germany the Ascension is celebrated on Thursday. Do I really have no obligation to attend the solemn Ascension Mass on Thursday, because the circumscription to which I belong canonically happens to celebrate on another day? This cannot be right. Someone who attends the Ascension Mass on Sunday in a US diocese surely does not need a dispensation of any kind for failing to attend a midweek ferial Low Mass on Thursday.

    I believe that you actually are NOT bound by the obligation. The relevant provision here seems to be Canon 13.

    Can. 13 §1. Particular laws are not presumed to be personal but territorial unless it is otherwise evident.

    §2. Travelers are not bound:

    1/ by the particular laws of their own territory as long as they are absent from it unless either the transgression of those laws causes harm in their own territory or the laws are personal;

    2/ by the laws of the territory in which they are present, with the exception of those laws which provide for public order, which determine the formalities of acts, or which regard immovable goods located in the territory.

    §3. Transients are bound by both universal and particular laws which are in force in the place where they are present.

    Since you are a member of a personal jurisdiction, it is evident that the dispensation from obligation and transfer of the celebration apply to you personally rather than to any particular place. And as a member of a personal jurisdiction, you are properly equated with “travelers” rather than with “transients” for canonical purposes. But, again, I have not verified this with a canon lawyer so it’s plausible that I’m missing some nuance.

    Finally, in the context of this discussion, the first sentence of Canon 14 is relevant.

    Can. 14 Laws, even invalidating and disqualifying ones, do not oblige when there is a doubt about the law. When there is a doubt about a fact, however, ordinaries can dispense from laws provided that, if it concerns a reserved dispensation, the authority to whom it is reserved usually grants it.

    So long as you have reasonable doubt about proper application of a law in a particular situation, you are not bound by it.

    That said, my recommendation is to review this matter with a canon lawyer in the diocese where you are living. Any canon lawyer should be able to assist you to apply the law properly in your situation, though they might need to do a bit of research before giving you an official answer.

    Norm.

  5. EPMS says:

    If your iNterpretation is correct, since every member of the OCSP is always “actually present” in another geographical diocese it would be pointless for OCSP to bother with its own Holy Days of Obligation since they would be unenforceable.

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