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 — July 7, 20077 juillet 2007
 
Pope Benedict XVI

In news articles and blog postings flooding the Internet there are reports of the new motu proprio, entitled Summorum Pontificum, issued by Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday morning that encourages wider use of the Latin Mass according to the 1962 edition of the Missale Romanum approved by Pope John XXIII. The motu proprio has been widely expected for months, but until last week few people had actually seen the text. Rumours of intense debate within the Roman curia sharpened interest in the proposed document. Fears of a wide reversal of the Vatican II liturgical reforms led to greater attention than normal from secular media.

The actual text of the motu proprio is not as dramatic as some had feared. The pope refers to the 1988 motu proprio by John Paul II entitled Ecclesia Dei. In that text, John Paul II had authorized limited use of the 1962 missal under the supervision of the local bishop and a new Vatican commission. The Ecclesia Dei commission is charged as well with outreach to disaffected traditionalists such as the Society of St. Pius X, founded by Archbishop Lefebvre.

Under the new norms, priests no longer need to seek permission of their bishop to celebrate the 1962 missal, although the bishop remains the “moderator” of the liturgy in the diocese. The 1988 rule requiring that a specific number of lay people appeal to the bishop for a Latin liturgy is removed. No numerical requirement is given, although the parish pastor and bishop are asked to ensure that there is a stable community of faithful before a Latin liturgy is added to the parish schedule. The priest is required to ensure that the care for the adherents to the earlier rite “harmonises with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish … avoiding discord and favouring the unity of the whole Church.”

Other norms permit the use of the 1962 missal on weekdays and once on Sundays and feastdays. Priests are encouraged to provide weddings, baptisms, penance, and anointing of the sick using the earlier rites. Unlike the new rite which permits the bishop to delegate a parish priest to celebrate confirmation (normally for adult initiation at the Easter Vigil), the motu proprio indicates that only the bishop may celebrate the earlier form of the sacrament of confirmation. In an explanatory note accompanying the motu proprio it is noted that the earlier rite did not permit concelebration. It is also noted that the 1962 missal says nothing about the direction of the altar.

Benedict also makes provision for the introduction of some aspects of the later post-conciliar rite to be incorporated into the 1962 missal. Specifically, he provides permission for the introduction of the new prefaces of the Mass and those for newer saints to be added to the 1962 rite. Presumably these would use the Latin text of the new liturgy.

One of the concerns raised in the months leading up to today’s release of Benedict’s motu proprio was the use of sections of the pre-conciliar rite that violate certain commitments of Vatican II. Of most concern in this regard is the use of Good Friday prayers that refer to the “perfidious Jews” (Latin: perfidis=faithless). There is no mention of this issue in the motu proprio, or in Benedict’s accompanying letter to the bishops of the world. However, the permission to celebrate the Latin liturgy according to the earlier rite applies only to the 1962 missal. In 1960, John XXIII removed the word “perfidious” from the Good Friday prayer. This does not completely resolve the problem, since the remainder of the prayer presents Jews as blind and in darkness, and the prayer could be open to a supercessionist interpretation. To resolve this problem, a bishop or the bishop’s conference could probably substitute a 1965 revision of the prayer or simply replace all of the Good Friday prayers with those of the 2002 typical edition.

The history of rupture

In Saturday’s new motu proprio, entitled Summorum Pontificum, Benedict XVI established new norms for the celebration of the 1962 missal that replace those issued in 1988. Under the new norms, the 1962 missal becomes an “extraordinary form” of the Roman liturgy. Benedict is very careful to present the 1962 missal and the post-Vatican II “ordinary form” of the missal as two forms of the same Roman liturgy.

The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is the ordinary expression of the ‘Lex orandi’ (Law of prayer) of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite. Nonetheless, the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and reissued by Bl. John XXIII is to be considered as an extraordinary expression of that same ‘Lex orandi,’ and must be given due honour for its venerable and ancient usage. These two expressions of the Church’s Lex orandi will in no any way lead to a division in the Church’s ‘Lex credendi’ (Law of belief). They are, in fact two usages of the one Roman rite.

For many years Benedict has been concerned about the way that we understand the reforms of Vatican II. For many Catholics, the council served as a turning point in their religious life. Popular piety changed dramatically during the 1960s. In many respects this was a result for social changes occurring in the wider societies in which Catholics live. However, the conciliar reform of the liturgy is frequently identified as the most visible and dramatic of Catholic changes. Most Catholics old enough to remember the pre-conciliar liturgy will remember the introduction of the vernacular (local) languages, the altar moving away from the wall, and the priest facing the people. More subtle changes occurred in the introduction of a three year lectionary for Sundays and a two year lectionary for weekdays. This replaced a single one year lectionary that is incorporated into the pre-conciliar missal. In the new liturgy there are more scriptural readings, more participation of the lay people, and more varied prayers with the eucharistic rite. Overall the liturgy was significantly simplified. All of these changes have led to a tendency of Catholics to understand the council as introducing a rupture in the history of the church and of the liturgy. This is a central concern in Benedict’s new document.

Benedict studiously avoids referring to the 1962 missal as the Tridentine Mass. The term technically refers to the liturgy reformed by Pope Pius V following the Council of Trent, but it has been used to refer more widely to the liturgy used in the period ending with Vatican II. Benedict opts to refer only to the 1962 edition of the missal, which was already a significant revision of the missal. He correctly points to a long history of liturgical revision that dates from the early church. Significant developments in the history are mentioned by Benedict ending not with the 1970 missal of Pope Paul VI, but the 2002 revision of that missal by Pope John Paul II. In this way, Benedict presents the liturgical history as a continuous process without rupture and the liturgy itself a unified Rite.

Benedict has a wider concern about how church history is presented, and particularly the way that Vatican II is frequently presented as a rupture in doctrinal development in ways quite similar to the liturgical history. As the cardinal prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger argued strenuously with what has been called the “Bologna School.” This group of theologians and church historians led by the late Giuseppe Alberigo of the University of Bologna has defended rupture interpretations for many decades. Ratzinger has written that this introduces a discontinuity in sacred tradition. The importance of tradition for Catholic theology is challenged if the contemporary church is interpreted as a product of the 1960s reforms.

Links:
Summorum Pontificum (Latin text)
Summorum Pontificum (unofficial English translation)
Letter to the bishops of the world to accompany the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum
Excerpts from the Explanatory Note on the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum (unofficial English translation)

Posted: July 7, 2007 • Permanent link: ecu.net/?p=334
Categories: Documents, NewsIn this article: Benedict XVI, Catholic, eucharist
Transmis : 7 juillet 2007 • Lien permanente : ecu.net/?p=334
Catégorie : Documents, NewsDans cet article : Benedict XVI, Catholic, eucharist


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