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 Strange priests offering Mass 
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Woywod, A Practical Commentary on Canon Law, paragraphs 699-702.

ADMISSION OF STRANGE PRIESTS TO SAY MASS

699. A priest who desires to say Holy Mass in a church other than that to which he is attached must show authentic and still valid letters of recommendation (commonly called ‘‘Celebret’’) to the priest in charge of the church. A secular priest must obtain these letters from his Ordinary, a religious priest from his superior, and a priest of an Oriental Rite from the Sacred Congregation of the Oriental Church. A priest who has a proper ‘‘Celebret’’ shall be admitted to say Mass, unless it is known that in the meantime he has done something for reason of which he must be kept from saying Holy Mass.

If the priest has no ‘‘Celebret,’’ but the rector of the church knows well that he is a priest in good standing, he may be allowed to say Mass. If, however, he is unknown to the rector, he may nevertheless be permitted to say Mass once or twice, provided he wears the ecclesiastical garb, does not receive any remuneration under any title from that church for the celebration of Mass, and enters his name, office and diocese in a book to be specially kept for that purpose.

The special regulations made by the local Ordinary on this matter, in so far as they are not contrary to the regulations laid down in this Canon, must be observed by all — even by the exempt religious, unless there is question of allowing religious to say Mass in a church of their own organization (Canon 804).

700. The Council of Chalcedon (451) ruled that no strange cleric or lector should be permitted to minister outside his own town without letters of recommendation from his own bishop.84 Pope Innocent III issued the same prohibition, but said that the priest who did not have his letters of recommendation might be admitted to say Mass if he desired to do so out of devotion: he might not, however, say Mass before the people, but privately.85 The Council of Trent again made the rule absolute—as the Council of Chalcedon had it—that no priest should be permitted to celebrate Mass and administer the Sacraments without letters of recommendation from his own bishop.86 The Code mitigates the rule to some extent in favor of travelling priests. If, however, they have no letters of recommendation and do not wear clerical clothes, they should not be admitted. In the United States priests do not wear the cassock on the street, but the Roman collar and black suit are the recognized clerical attire. The duty of an unknown priest to register in a record kept for that purpose is introduced by the Code.

701. Speaking of priests who come from other countries to collect money for religious purposes without any authorization, the Council of Baltimore87 rules that such priests are not to be permitted to say Holy Mass—not even once, unless they have received permission from the local Ordinary. This rule, as the Council states, is necessary in the United States to protect the people against impostors.

The letters of recommendation are, as a rule, given for a definite length of time. After the lapse of the time specified, they become invalid. Priests of Oriental Rites need letters of recommendation from the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Church. Very likely those letters are required only when they want to say Mass in a church of the Latin Rite. For churches of their own Rite the letters of their own Ordinary should suffice.88 The Ruthenian Rite in the United States has its own bishop, who can issue letters of recommendation to the priests subject to him.

702. With reference to priests from Europe and all countries about the Mediterranean Sea who desire to go to America or the Philippine Islands for an indefinite length of time or for ever, the Sacred Consistorial Congregation has issued special laws as to the manner in which the letters of recommendation shall be issued, and for the correspondence between the bishop in Europe and the bishop of those dioceses into which they wish to go. For the Italian priests the Sacred Congregation reserves to itself the right to issue these letters; for Spain and Portugal the Papal Legates of these countries have the right to issue the letters. Letters not conforming to these laws are invalid.89

84 Decr. Gratiani, c. 7, D. 71.
85 Decretales Greg. IX, c. 3 De Clericis Peregrinis, lib. I, tit. 22.
86 Sessio XXIII, cap. 16, De Reform.
87 Concil. Balt. III, n. 295.
88 Augustine, ‘‘Commentary on Canon Law,” IV, 129.

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Sat Nov 25, 2006 9:59 pm
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