Sunday, July 8, 2007

Summorum Pontificum

Pope Benedict's release of the motu proprio entitled, "Summorum Pontificum" has generated headlines across the globe. But of all the articles one might read, I recommend this one from Catholic World News.

In it you will find a refreshing, orthodox perspective and analysis. Below I have posted excerpts (and my own commentary) for those who would rather pass up the wonderful opportunity to read it in full. ;)

The long-awaited motu proprio, which had been the subject of intensive speculation within the Church for more than a year, gives every priest the right to celebrate the Mass using the 1962 Missal, and instructs pastors to "willingly accept" requests from the faithful for access to the older liturgical form.

The 1962 Missal is more commonly referred to as the "Tridentine Mass" or the "Traditional Latin Mass." Some of the major differences (from the current Roman Missal, or "Novus Ordo" celebration at your typical Catholic parish) being a Mass almost entirely said in Latin, and the priest facing with the people -- not at them.

The new canonical norms established by Pope Benedict will take effect on September 14.

Pope Benedict emphasizes that there are not two different rites, but two different forms of the Roman rite: the ordinary form, according to the current Roman Missal, and the extraordinary form, which uses the Missal that was in universal use prior to the liturgical changes that followed the Second Vatican Council.

You can find and read the motu proprio issued on Saturday by the Holy Father here. And you can find the text of the Pope's accompanying letter, explaining the move here.

[In his letter, t]he Pope also acknowledges that some Catholics find a greater sense of reverence in the older liturgy--


in what will now be known as the extraordinary form of the Roman rite.

With his motu proprio the Holy Father hopes to restore reverence through a wider use of the "extraordinary form" of the liturgy-- the Mass of the 1962 Missal. At the same time, it is clear, he hopes that the wider use of the old form, with its scrupulous attention to rubrics, will encourage a more faithful and reverent approach to the ordinary form in the Novus Ordo Mass.

What is new?

Summorum Pontificum states flatly that the old form of the Mass, the 1962 Missal, was never abrogated. Implicitly the Pope is recognizing that many faithful Catholics have suffered a grave injustice, since they were told that the old form of the liturgy was now forbidden.


At present-- until the new norms established in the motu proprio take effect on September 14-- Catholics who seek access to the old Mass must petition their diocesan bishop, who may grant permission of the use of the 1962 Missal, under the terms of Pope John Paul's Ecclesia Dei-- or he may choose not to allow it.

With his new norms Pope Benedict recognizes that many bishops have not allowed the "wide and generous" access to the old form that his predecessor had encouraged.

(including the Archbishop of Seattle...and, unless you happen to live in Nebraska, most likely your bishop as well.)

Citing St. Paul's words to the Corinthians (2 Cor 6), the Pope now exhorts all bishops: "Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows."

Sadly, as the Holy Father is well aware, most bishops need more than a simple exhortation from Rome to...listen to Rome.

Here's to the stripping of some red hats, and perhaps vigorous implementation of Canon Law 401§2 which reads, "A diocesan Bishop who, because of illness or some other grave reason, has become unsuited for the fulfillment of his office, is earnestly requested to offer his resignation from office."

But I digress.

But Pope Benedict goes beyond exhortation, and establishes the rights of the faithful in terms of canon law. Every priest has the right to use the "extraordinary form," and needs no further permission. Wherever a "stable group" of parishioners asks for the old Mass, their pastor should "willingly accept" their request, the Pope adds.

Long live Pope Benedict!

In ordinary parishes he envisions the use of the "extraordinary form" for one Sunday Mass. He stipulates that the 1962 Missal should not be used for the Easter Triduum in parishes, since during the Triduum the entire parish is drawn together for the celebration in the ordinary form.

What the motu proprio is not

Because much coverage of the motu proprio has been misleading-- especially in the secular media-- it is important to be clear about several things that Summorum Pontificum does not do, and several effects that the Holy Father obviously does not intend:

1. The motu proprio does not restore the use of Latin to the liturgy. Priests have always had the right to use Latin in celebrating the Novus Ordo liturgy-- the "ordinary" form of the Roman rite. Indeed the use of Latin has always been strongly encouraged by the Vatican, even if few pastors have responded.

2. The motu proprio does not require priests to use the older liturgy. Pope Benedict is not imposing any new liturgical forms; he is allowing the faithful to make use of an old form-- which, as he carefully points out, was never banned. Those lay Catholics who prefer the post-conciliar liturgy have no cause for concern; the new liturgy will remain the commonplace experience in most parishes.


In America, the liturgy committee of the US bishops' conference has already released a special newsletter dedicated to Summorum Pontificum, including both the papal documents themselves and a series of questions and answers about the new norms and the extraordinary form of the liturgy. Particularly in light of the hostility that the US bishops' committee has sometimes exhibited toward liturgical norms from Rome, the newsletter offers a remarkably even-handed and sympathetic perspective on the motu proprio.

In particular it is gratifying to read that the US bishops' liturgy committee recognizes the many Catholics have been troubled by the Novus Ordo liturgy because of "the false sense of creativity unfortunately practiced by some in the celebration of the post-conciliar liturgical rites." Citing the words of Pope Benedict, the newsletter notes that this "creative" approach has led to "deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear." Insofar as the US bishops are now officially recognizing that experimentation has deformed the liturgy, Summorum Pontificum is already yielding rich fruit.

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