Monday, March 17, 2008

Surrender to Summorum Pontificum

I know that this is very late but I just noticed an article on the Brisbane Liturgy Commission website by Dr Tom Elich. Here it is with my markups and comments:

The Missal of John XXIIIVol. 37 No.3 - September 2007

I am writing this on the feast of the Triumph of the Cross. Today our little mob at the parish of Sts Peter and Paul celebrated the liturgy simply and with joy. Tomorrow we will do the same to honour Our Lady of Sorrows. The sky has not yet collapsed. I do not expect it to. Today the Motu Proprio of Pope Benedict on the old form of Mass in Latin takes effect. I cannot imagine that it will change the liturgical practice of our parish. The pope is at pains to point out that our present Missal obviously is and continues to be the normal Form – the forma ordinaria – of the Eucharistic liturgy. (of course we accept that. The only change to the liturgical practices of the parish is that the liturgy, celebrated in the OF would be improved)

Continuity and Discontinuity
There is no question that the Second Vatican Council intended a serious general reform of the liturgy (SC 21). Zeal for the promotion and restoration of the liturgy is rightly held to be a sign of the providential dispositions of God in our time, a movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church (SC 43). (agree) In implementing this reform, we have undoubtedly tended to emphasise the change in attitude and practice, the discontinuity with what went before. We have always understood, of course, that we are the same Church, celebrating the same sacred mysteries in the liturgy. Even a break in practice with our immediate past was always intended to link us with more substantial parts of our Catholic tradition. (finally he is admitting that the "hermeneutic of rupture" was to get people to change to fit in with his personal ideology. The cards are finally out on the table. But which parts of the tradition are more substantial?)

Now, in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict has chosen to underline the theme of continuity in the Council’s liturgical reform. He does not reverse or negate the reform of the liturgy. He affirms that he is not turning back the clock. Rather he is adjusting the point of equilibrium. (correct)

It is worth recognising that the Mass of John XXIII which the pope is now allowing as an extraordinary liturgical form is itself a reformed rite. Benedict XVI sketches the evolution of the Roman Rite in broad strokes. In particular, not only does the 1962 Missal of John XXIII include an entirely revised order for Holy Week dating from the 1950s, but it also incorporates a simplification of rubrics from 1958. Again during the 1950s, Pius XII allowed the use of the vernacular in the liturgy of the sacraments, and encouraged communal participation in the responses at Mass and the singing. It is wrong to imagine that the Missal is Tridentine, that is, unchanged since the Council of Trent. Our present Missal is a further development. In the history of the liturgy, the pope writes, there is growth and progress, but no rupture. (Correct - We who are more attached to the EF are not going back to Trent or the 1950s. We are going forward with the tradition)

With rumours about this document flying around for the last several years, those enamoured of the Latin Mass of John XXIII have been shamelessly manipulating an uncertain situation, promising that everything they stand for would be vindicated by the restoration of the ‘classic’ Mass of the Roman Rite. In fact, they do not have much to crow about now. (what??) The burden of the Motu Proprio falls very heavily upon them. Whereas in the past, they were able to pretend that the Church of the 1950s went hand in hand with the liturgical rites of 1962, now it is clear that attachment to an extraordinary form of the Roman liturgy does not separate them doctrinally from the thinking of the Second Vatican Council. The pope insists that the two expressions of the one lex orandi will in no way lead to a division in the Church’s lex credendi. The theological teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the Church as the people of God, on the Church in the Modern World, on ecumenism and religious liberty, stands for all Catholics. Therefore the use of the Missal of John XXIII must be understood within the context of Vatican II ecclesiology and the old liturgical rites must be reinterpreted in this light. It is not a return to a pre-conciliar mentality. (It never was a return to a pre-conciliar mentality. We celebrate the Mass according to the Missal of John XXIII but we live in a post Vatican II church all the same.)

Further, there is a presumption that priests who celebrate the old extraordinary form of the Roman Rite will not do so exclusively. Needless to say, writes the pope to his brother bishops, in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness. (Yes that is what Summorum Pontificum actually says)

The positive reason Benedict XVI issued his Motu Proprio was to achieve an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. He appears to intend primarily the reconciliation of the schismatic Society of Saint Pius X. But his prophetic call for reconciliation also applies to any Catholics who regularly disparage parish communities and even bishops who celebrate the ordinary form of the Roman liturgy with faith and goodwill. One positive aspect of the new provisions is that it demonstrates unequivocally that the Holy See embraces diversity as both possible and desirable within the unity of the Roman Rite. (Finally he gets it!)

Opportunity and Ability (oh here we go)
For the extraordinary rite to be celebrated, a priest will need both the opportunity and the ability to do so. Neither will be easily come by. With fewer and older priests, parishes – especially those clustered around a single priest – are being forced to reduce the number of Masses. What priest will have the opportunity to celebrate the extraordinary rite for a small group of the faithful without compromise to the rest of the parish? A priest is not at liberty to celebrate extra Masses at will: the general rule is that he may not celebrate Mass more than once a day, though for good reason the bishop may allow him to celebrate twice in one day or even, if pastoral need requires it, three times on Sundays (CCL 905). There is not much room to move. (but of course we will be seeing fewer and fewer OF Masses as well - presumably continually celebrated to a lower and lower standard especially in the Brisbane Archdiocese).

Secondly it will require quite specialised skills on the part of the priest. In the first place he must be able to understand Latin, read it fluently, and pronounce it intelligently. This was common enough several decades ago, but today hardly any priest, doctor or lawyer would be able to manage: classics departments are tiny. Next the priest must be familiar with the liturgical forms and the highly detailed rubrics of the old rite. Summorum Pontificum has spawned a flush of enthusiasm for web-based training sites and the publication of resources, but celebrating the liturgy would still require a concentrated effort for those unfamiliar with this usage. (Of course you can do the same as me and go to a Guild of St Lawrence workshop where the friendly people from the FSSP will teach you all you need to know. You dont even have to go out of Australia!) While we are all encouraged to preserve the riches of the Church’s faith and prayer and to give them their proper place, and while priests who desire to celebrate the old liturgy may do so, I do not believe there is ever any obligation on a priest to celebrate the Mass of John XXIII, nor is there any obligation upon him to learn Latin and to master the rubrics to prepare him for such an eventuality. (he means here that priests are all lazy) There should be no compulsion for seminarians either to learn to celebrate it. It is an extraordinary rite. (um I would hold that thought until the clarifying document comes out).

All liturgy belongs to the whole Body of Christ under the headship of the bishop. It is never the possession of any particular interest group. Whether the Church celebrates the ordinary or the extraordinary form of the Roman liturgy, the most important thing is that it be celebrated well. (AGREE!) All our celebrations recognise that liturgy is God’s saving action in our midst and is a holy and sacred event. It is a big enough challenge for parishes to do this using the simplified vernacular liturgy of the ordinary rite. Priests and parishes who have given their best energies to this task over recent decades are encouraged to keep up the good work. (and learn how to say the Extraordinary form and the ordinary form Mass properly)

Tom Elich, editor

Overall, considering the background of Dr Elich, the article comes out reasonably. It is quite a different tone to the huffing and puffing of the earlier articles when SP was still in the rumour phase; not to add the opinion of his 2IC Liz Harrington who implied in a Catholic newspaper that the Pope was stupid for doing this.

I think in this, like the new translation of the Roman Missal, Dr Elich has realised that he has lost out, and has departed to his parish in Bulimba to lick his wounds.

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