Friday, May 13, 2011

Across the "Universe": For Latin Church, New Rules on "Old Mass"

Four years after B16 revolutionized the liturgical landscape with the publication of Summorum Pontificum -- his motu proprio offering an enhanced permission and profile for celebrations of the “extraordinary form” of the Roman liturgy -- this morning saw the emergence of a Vatican clarification on the norms, Universae Ecclesiae (“The Universal Church”), intended to reinforce the 1962 Missal’s lasting place in modern ecclesial life and urging "generous" provisions for its use, albeit with no illusions of the post-Conciliar rites' being eclipsed by the Tridentine books.

With an eye to furthering what an attached explanatory note termed “a spirit of 'generous welcome' towards groups of faithful who request the forma extraordinaria or priests who request to occasionally celebrate in such a form with some of the faithful,” unlike the prior text, this morning’s instruction -- dated 30 April, the current calendar’s feast of St Pius V, who brought the pre-Conciliar liturgy into universal force in 1570 -- came not from the pontiff himself, but with his approval from the Holy See’s organ for all things traditionalist: the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, now operating under the aegis of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and its prefect, LA-born Cardinal William Levada.

Explaining the Pope's mind in granting the wider concession for the celebration of the "Old Mass" to those who seek it, the document said the motu proprio had three aims in mind:

  • "offering to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, considered as a precious treasure to be preserved;
  • "effectively guaranteeing and ensuring the use of the forma extraordinaria for all who ask for it, given that the use of the 1962 Roman Liturgy is a faculty generously granted for the good of the faithful and therefore is to be interpreted in a sense favorable to the faithful who are its principal addressees;
  • and "promoting reconciliation at the heart of the church."
At the same time, the text underscored both that "the faithful who ask for the celebration of the forma extraordinaria must not in any way support or belong to groups which show themselves to be against the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria or against the Roman Pontiff as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church" and that, in the course of their studies, seminarians "should be given proper formation, including study of Latin and, where pastoral needs suggest it, the opportunity to learn the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite."

Within an hour of its release, however, the latter call was summarily declined by Benedict's own choice as primate of England and Wales -- Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster -- who said shortly after the text's release that the "pastoral need" for the teaching of the Tridentine form was a "provisional," not "absolute," stipulation, and studies in the extraordinary books would unduly encumber an "already crowded" formation program in Britain.

Universae Ecclesiae is the first of three major texts to be released by the CDF over the coming weeks. More on the other two in a bit, but for the lead-off's fullest context, here below is the Vatican's full English translation of the instruction:

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As an added backgrounder, meanwhile, it's worth recalling that -- aside from the text of Summorum itself, and that of its accompanying letter to the world's bishops explaining the move -- B16 has only directly addressed his "one rite, two forms" policy twice, both instances during his September 2008 visit to France, where the clash between particularly formidable factions of traditionalists and progressivists has arguably roiled the church's life more than in any other place.

Asked during his in-flight press conference en route to Paris to respond to concerns among some French that his motu proprio represented "a step backward" from Vatican II's reform of the liturgy, the Pope responded as follows:

Their fear is unfounded, for this 'Motu Proprio' is merely an act of tolerance, with a pastoral aim, for those people who were brought up with this liturgy, who love it, are familiar with it and want to live with this liturgy. They form a small group, because this presupposes a schooling in Latin, a training in a certain culture. Yet for these people, to have the love and tolerance to let them live with this liturgy seems to me a normal requirement of the faith and pastoral concern of any Bishop of our Church. There is no opposition between the liturgy renewed by the Second Vatican Council and this liturgy.

On each day [of the Council], the Council Fathers celebrated Mass in accordance with the ancient rite and, at the same time, they conceived of a natural development for the liturgy within the whole of this century, for the liturgy is a living reality that develops but, in its development, retains its identity. Thus, there are certainly different accents, but nevertheless [there remains] a fundamental identity that excludes a contradiction, an opposition between the renewed liturgy and the previous liturgy. In any case, I believe that there is an opportunity for the enrichment of both parties. On the one hand the friends of the old liturgy can and must know the new saints, the new prefaces of the liturgy, etc.... On the other, the new liturgy places greater emphasis on common participation, but it is not merely an assembly of a certain community, but rather always an act of the universal Church in communion with all believers of all times, and an act of worship. In this sense, it seems to me that there is a mutual enrichment, and it is clear that the renewed liturgy is the ordinary liturgy of our time.
On his own initiative, Benedict revisited the subject in his address to the French bishops at the trip's close:
Liturgical worship is the supreme expression of priestly and episcopal life, just as it is of catechetical teaching. Your duty to sanctify the faithful people, dear Brothers, is indispensable for the growth of the Church. In the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum”, I was led to set out the conditions in which this duty is to be exercised, with regard to the possibility of using the missal of Blessed John XXIII (1962) in addition to that of Pope Paul VI (1970). Some fruits of these new arrangements have already been seen, and I hope that, thanks be to God, the necessary pacification of spirits is already taking place. I am aware of your difficulties, but I do not doubt that, within a reasonable time, you can find solutions satisfactory for all, lest the seamless tunic of Christ be further torn. Everyone has a place in the Church. Every person, without exception, should be able to feel at home, and never rejected. God, who loves all men and women and wishes none to be lost, entrusts us with this mission by appointing us shepherds of his sheep. We can only thank him for the honour and the trust that he has placed in us. Let us therefore strive always to be servants of unity!