Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and sacramental theology and director of the Sacerdos Institute at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: Pursuant to our December 8 comments on the obligation of the pastor to say a Mass for the people, a priest from Toronto asked: “What’s the assistant to the pastor in that regard? Being a co-worker in the parish for spiritual well-being of the faithful in a particular parish, doesn’t he have to say Mass for such intentions?
On the one hand, we can say yes, insofar as every priest must offer Masses and prayers for the souls entrusted to his care.
However, the assistant does not have a canonical obligation to set aside a specific Mass for this purpose.
The reasons behind this are multiple and often entwined in concrete historical contexts. For example, in former centuries Mass stipends constituted a substantial part of a priest’s income, especially poorer clergy who were not assigned a specific pastoral role.
Therefore, while the parish priest had several sources of income and therefore could renounce any stipend, this was not always the case with his assistants.
There was also the desire to satisfy the many requests of Masses on the part of the faithful.
For this, and many other reasons, when canon law was first codified in 1918 only the pastor received a canonical obligation to say a pro populo Mass, and thus it remained in the 1983 reform.
In today’s altered circumstances this might change in any future revision of the code.
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Editor’s Note: Look for the Liturgy Column at ePriest
ZENIT will soon close its English-language edition, but plans call for Father Edward McNamara, LC, to continue his liturgy column at ePriest in the near future.