Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

The Mass: public or private?

May 26th, 2020, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Note: the following discussion uses the contemporary (Covid-19 plague) jargon related to private and public Masses. While it is true that the words “sine populo” (“without the people”) has been used in the past to mean a private Mass, in practice the ‘understanding’ of the words has changed since March 17th, when the Catholic Church herself began using the words ‘public’ and ‘private’ to express with more clarity what the people have been experiencing.  It seems doubtful that the prior usage will return among the laity.

When a priest celebrates Mass, and locks the doors so no one else can get in, we call it a PRIVATE Mass.

When a priest celebrates Mass with unlocked doors, open to the world, we call it a PUBLIC Mass, even if no one shows up.

What is it called when a priest celebrates Mass and permits 9 other people to attend, in a locked Church to which no one else will be admitted? Semi-private? Semi-public?

No. It is still a private Mass as the laity understands it. Let’s not be misled by the illusion that many churches now have “public Masses.” No, they do not. They still are having private Masses which almost nobody is allowed to attend. And the people not admitted may feel worse than when nobody else was admitted.


It doesn’t matter if locking doors is on the priest’s own initiative, or on his bishop’s order, or on order of the governor of a state or the mayor of a backwater town. When Mass is being said with the doors locked, and you are on the outside and unable to get in, it is a private Mass and you are not invited. Let’s not complicate reality by calling those Masses “public,” as if progress had been made. Personal credibility demands we speak the truth.

What do you think? Some bishops are voluntarily delaying another week or two for often undisclosed reasons. Kudos to the ones objecting to the government’s man-handling the sacred worship, and creating distraction from the holy. Better that the bottom line should be “We will again hold public Mass when we are really ready to do so without compromise and with proper obedience and reverence to what the Catholic Church defines Mass should be.”

When President Trump called for the opening of churches last Friday, May 22, he said he was addressing the need of  ‘millions’ of people. He certainly won’t be getting access for “millions” at 10 people per church!

So you want to do more?

Here’s an idea: how about having a Mass said in Thanksgiving for Donald Trump’s forcing the reopening of Churches?




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