A Comment on the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae on the Application of the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum
Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro Carámbula, S.T.D.
The Instruction Universae Ecclesiae on the Application of the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum given as Motu Proprio by His Holiness Benedict XVI was signed on April 30th by the President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission Cardinal William Levada and the Secretary Msgr. Guido Pozzo. It had been previously approved by the Holy Father on April 8th. It was made public on May 13th. It is called the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae for the two beginning words in the Latin text. It was issued to strengthen the application of the Motu Proprio that was promulgated to offer to all Catholic faithful the celebration of the Usus antiquior as precious treasure to be preserved. By this Motu Proprio, the Supreme Pontiff promulgated a universal law for the Church, giving a new regulatory framework for the use of the Roman Liturgy that was in effect in 1962.(1) It has the objective of providing guaranties and assure to all the faithful that request it, the use of the Extraordinary Form and as consequence it promotes unity and reconciliation in the Church. (2)
We should receive this Instruction with a very positive spirit. In substance it fortifies and consolidates the doctrine of the Motu Proprio and guaranties the freedom of the traditional Missal so it is clearly a progress. The Instruction constitutes a reaffirmation that we cannot go back to the preexisting situation when the rights of the faithful to benefit from the traditional Mass were not duly protected.
The Instruction was issued also to clarify various questions from around the world that had arisen with regards to the interpretation of the Motu proprio. Some of these questions regrettably have come from an approach that treated to apply the Motu Proprio with a restrictive spirit or worse with an adversary spirit. This well known resistance of some bishops and some members of the clergy was recently pointed out by Msgr. Pozzo Secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commission.(3) In France one archdiocese and five dioceses so far have not granted the celebration of the traditional Mass. At the same it should be noted that also in France since the publication of the Motu Proprio 103 new locations for the celebration of the Mass have been granted.(4) In Spain before the Motu Proprio for different and complex reasons the traditional Mass had a very limited presence; today it is celebrated in about fifteen dioceses.(5) In Africa also there is a growing interest for the Extraordinary Form; recently Roger McCaffrey shipped to Nigeria fifty copies of the Missal of 1962, which he had reprinted through his publishing company Roman Catholic Books.
A fundamental element of interpretation of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum can be found in many previous statements of the Holy Father on the proper interpretation of the Second Vatican Council. This is very important because many of the persons that have a distorted view of that Council are the ones that have opposed the implementation of the Motu Proprio. These were persons that had interpreted the II Vatican Council as a call for a dynamic of constant change in the Church, as it was denounced by the Blessed John Paul II. (6)
This concern was very well explained by Benedict XVI in his address to the Roman Curia of December 22nd 2005.(7) In this address he contrasted two ways of interpreting the II Vatican Council: a hermeneutic of discontinuity and a hermeneutic of renewal in the continuity. He points out that “The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church. It asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless. However, the true spirit of the Council is not to be found in these compromises but instead in the impulses toward the new that are contained in the texts.” But as the Holy Father explains within a hermeneutic of continuity the Church “is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.” This address is in total continuity with his previous thinking, some years before in a very important work Cardinal Ratzinger had stated, “The Council has not created any new matter for belief, let alone replaced an old belief with a new one.”(8) Here in a very pithy statement we have the essence of his distinction between Hermeneutic of discontinuity and Hermeneutic of Continuity. Some years later, Cardinal Ratzinger speaking about this Council to the Chilean Bishops in July of 1988 stated, “The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.” (9)
This lead us to see how as Nicola Bux points out that the crisis of the liturgy is caused by an ecclesiology of rupture instead of an ecclesiology of continuity.(10) A clear case of these types of mistakes can be found in the work of Fr Paolo Farinella, The Return to the Ancient Mass. (11) He states that the Motu Proprio is not acceptable because it reintroduces in the Church an ecclesiology that was left aside by the new ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council. He underlines that, each Missal is connected with a different type of ecclesiology. The point that this author or others similar to him, are unable to demonstrate is that the Council introduced a new ecclesiology in the Church.
Important statements of interpretation of the Motu Proprio are contained also in the Letter of Benedict XVI to the Bishops of the Catholic Church, Concerning the Remission of the Excommunication of the Four Bishops Consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre of March 10th, 2009. He affirms that, “The Church’s teaching authority cannot be frozen in the year 1962 – this must be quite clear to the Society.”(12) (Referring to the Society of Saint Pius X.) This is a self evident statement, we can mention as examples the Encyclical Humanae Vitae of Paul VI or the Apostolic Letter of Blessed John Paul II Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, on Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone,
but is also obvious that II Vatican Council requires a precise interpretation within a proper hermeneutic of continuity.
Speaking about the right interpretation of the Council in the letter to Bishops the Pope stated, “But some of those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the Council also need to be reminded that Vatican II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church. Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the Council has to accept the faith professed over the centuries, and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life.” This is stated by the Holy Father because many that opposed the lifting of the excommunications had espoused a hermeneutic of discontinuity with the tradition of the Church. As consequence they were opposing this gesture of reconciliation of the Holy Father because they are against the reaffirmation of the fullness of the doctrinal treasures of the Church and of the restoration of the traditional liturgy which is part of this treasure.
In this letter the Holy Father shows with anguished tones that the biggest external challenge that the Church has is that, “In vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God.” In this challenge we have also the particular call of the Lord for us in out times. We will be able to be strong missionaries again if we make our own the entire doctrinal and liturgical treasury of the Church and we offer it to the many that today are walking in darkness and in the shadows of death.
Cardinal Domenico Bertolucci, the greatest living musician of the Church at concert where his compositions were played in the presence of the Holy Father in the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo on Agust 31st made very explicit declarations on the value of the immemorial liturgy of the Church: “Then, the times unfortunately changed. But today, a true a proper reawakening by so many young people, who wish to relive the beauty of the Latin Mass and the greater spiritual fruit derived from it, can be noticed with great satisfaction; this is great, a very great comfort. And it makes us hope for a liturgical future certainly desired by Your Holiness. We thank the Lord, which he may help all those who are working for seriousness in sacred music. I firmly trust that, we the help of God, a true return to the bimillenary tradition of sacred music will take place.” (13)
The Instruction in its opening statement affirms the very basic truth that, “The Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum of the Sovereign Pontiff Benedict XVI given Motu Proprio on 7 July 2007, which came into effect on 14 September 2007, has made the richness of the Roman Liturgy more accessible to the Universal Church.” Against the negative interpretations mentioned above, that try to ignore this document it is reaffirmed that the Motu Proprio is a universal law of the Church.(14) As such it granted rights and duties to all the faithful of the Latin Church. It is very important to reaffirm this because in some places the right of the faithful to accede to the traditional Mass is still treated like a gracious indult that the local ordinary can grant or deny at will. At the same time it should be noted that under the previous legal system of the indult, an episcopal refusal was in disagreement with the Papal exhortation contained in the Motu Proprio Ecclessia Dei of providing a generous application of the contents of that document. One of the reasons that lead to the promulgation of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum was this lack of generous application of the previous Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei. The Motu Proprio should be considered also a “special law” that derogates all the liturgical norms that are contrary to the rubrics of the 1962 missal, when this is missal is used today. The Instruction states “Furthermore, by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962.” (15)
The traditional principle of the unity of the Liturgy is highlighted in n. 3, “The Holy Father, having recalled the concern of the Sovereign Pontiffs in caring for the Sacred Liturgy and in their recognition of liturgical books, reaffirms the traditional principle, recognized from time immemorial and necessary to be maintained into the future, that “each particular Church must be in accord with the universal Church not only regarding the doctrine of the faith and sacramental signs, but also as to the usages universally handed down by apostolic and unbroken tradition. These are to be maintained not only so that errors may be avoided, but also so that the faith may be passed on in its integrity, since the Church’s rule of prayer (lex orandi) corresponds to her rule of belief (lex credendi).” The Holy Father had reaffirmed this principle in the second paragraph of the introduction of the Motu Proprio. This fundamental principle has been severely challenged by the real way in which the missal of Paul VI has been implemented. Cardinal Ratzinger in 1998 pointed out, “The free space which the new order of Mass gives to creativity it must be admitted, is often excessively enlarged. The difference between the liturgy with the new liturgical books, as it is actually practiced and celebrated in various places is often much greater than the difference between the old and new liturgies when celebrated according to the rubrics of the liturgical books.”(16) I remember well the comment of a faithful that had attended four different masses at an American city some years ago; he told to me that he felt he had attended four different religions. We also have the abuses that are committed in many places giving priority to local costumes under the guise of enculturation and that also have damaged the sense of unity of the liturgy. This was a problem that Blessed John Paul II saw with concern. (17)
Those excesses lead Blessed John Paul II to warn in 1989 “Let nothing in the celebration of the Liturgy disrupt or obscure this unity of the Church!”(18) In the same document he noted that some “have promoted outlandish innovations, departing from the norms issued by the authority of the Apostolic See or the bishops, thus disrupting the unity of the Church and the piety of the faithful and even on occasion contradicting matters of faith.”(19) Blessed John Paul II proceeds afterwards to provide a detailed list of the erroneous applications of the post-conciliar reforms.(20) The condemnation of these abuses was reiterated by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum of March 25th 2004. As this instruction points out in some places the perpetration of liturgical abuses have become almost habitual.(21) So taking into account the amount of liturgical abuses that have marred the implementation of the new liturgy, the complaint of the opponents of the Motu Proprio that the re-introduction of the traditional liturgy could damage the liturgical unity of the Church seems to be very inadequate.
Both the Motu Proprio in its first article and the Instruction in art. 6 contain the principle of equivalence between the both forms of the Latin Rite. The Instruction states, “The Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI and the last edition prepared under Pope John XXIII, are two forms of the Roman Liturgy, defined respectively as ordinaria and extraordinaria: they are two usages of the one Roman Rite, one alongside the other. Both are the expression of the same lex orandi of the Church. On account of its venerable and ancient use, the forma extraordinaria is to be maintained with appropriate honor.” This principle give us a solid legal ground to request that the extraordinary form should be given the same treatment as the ordinary form and should not suffer any type of negative discrimination. At the same time taking into account the history of the liturgy it seems difficult that we could place at the same level a missal that has a long tradition of organic development and the new missal. As Cardinal Ratzinger pointed out, “One of the weaknesses of the postconciliar liturgical reform can doubtless be traced to the armchair strategy of academics, drawing up things on paper which, in fact, would presuppose years of organic growth.”(22) Also we have to consider, as Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos pointed out, that it is possible to sustain that the ancient rite expresses better the sense of the sacrifice of Christ that is represented in every Holy Mass. (23)
The art. 8th of the introduction of the Instruction contains important interpretative elements: First it underlines the magisterial importance of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum declaring that it was issued as part of the competence of the Holy Father to regulate the Liturgy and establishes the aims of this law.
“a. offering to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, considered as a precious treasure to be preserved;” So this shows that the effective preservation of the Usus Antiquior is part and parcel the of the Hermeneutic of Continuity of Benedict XVI.
“b. 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 favourable to the faithful who are its principal addressees;” This clause establish the principle that in the case of doubt always it has to be interpreted in a favourable way to the petitioners of the traditional Mass and no obstacles should be placed in its celebration.
“c. promoting reconciliation at the heart of the Church.” It is important to reach reconciliation with groups that are in a more or less in an imperfect canonical situation. It is important also to reach pacification between different groups within the Church that are at odds on liturgical and on theological questions. But more important than all of that, is to build a reconciliation of the members of the Church with their own liturgical tradition, with their common memory and identity so that we can rediscover our permanent liturgical identity in the riches that were built in the past through the constant action of the Holy Spirit and can be carefully and organically developed with a sense of faithful continuity until the Second Coming of the Lord. (24)
There has been some concern on the name used to call the older liturgy. In these documents it is called Extraordinary Form and also “Antiquior Usus” (the “more ancient use”). Some commentators have pointed out that the name “extraordinary” is pejorative. If we read objectively both the Summorum Pontificum and the Instruction there is no way that this concern can be proven. But nevertheless it can be stated that the term “extraordinary” places the traditional rite in a certain condition of inferiority with regards to the ordinary form, because this denomination seems to underlines that the “normal” form is the missal of Paul VI, so it might be prudent to use a different name. This perceived inferiority can injure the legal equivalency as proclaimed in art. 6th of the Instruction. The documents refer also to the traditional rite as the “Antiquior Usus” (the “more ancient use”) so we could use that name more frequently. But even “Antiquior Usus” as a denomination has the limitations that it could be construed as somewhat like an object taken from a museum, so we should explore options to find an appropriate denomination. One possibility is to call it the Latin-Gregorian Liturgy as it has been denominated in the inform of the Ecclesia Dei Commission published in the report “The Activities of the Holy See 2010”. (25)
The Responsibilities of the Ecclesia Dei Commission
The Instruction spells out the powers of the Commission as granted by previous legislation and in particular articles 11 and 12 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.(26) The Commission has received ordinary vicarious power for the matters within its competence, to monitor the observance and application of the provisions of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. (27)
In the instruction it is underlined that the Commission has the power to decide upon recourses legitimately sent to it, as hierarchical Superior, against any possible singular or general administrative provisions of an Ordinary, either bishops or religious superiors, that appear to be contrary to the Motu Proprio.(28) As an example we can mention that the Commission might receive a complain against a diocesan decree that places illegal limits to the access of the faithful to the extraordinary form. We can mention as an example of this type of illegal decree the Guidelines Regarding Celebration the Extraordinary Form of the Mass published by the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, in the U.S.(29) We should also notice with gratitude that those Guidelines were withdrawn and they were substituted in the diocesan web-site by the publication of the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, after concerned persons expressed their perplexity to the Diocesan authorities.
Taking into account the vicarious powers that Commission has received it is evident that it can examine administrative decisions of ordinaries with out receiving the legal recourses against them. The decrees by which the Pontifical Commission decides recourses may be challenged before the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.(30) We sincerely hope that with these new and enhanced powers the Commission will be able to come to the assistance of many faithful that so far are deprived of the traditional Mass.
Liturgical Regulatory Responsibilities of the Commission
The instruction establishes that the Commission, “After having received the approval from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei will have the task of looking after future editions of liturgical texts pertaining to the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite.”(31) The Holy Father in his Letter to the Bishops on the occasion of the publication of the Motu Proprio had announced that new saints and some of the new Prefaces would be inserted in the 1962 Missal.(32) To implement this desire of the Holy Father the Instruction gives this responsibility of the Commission.(33) A Vatican publication, “The Activities of the Holy See 2010” has just informed that a joint commission was set up, with experts of the commission “Ecclesia Dei” and of the Congregation for Divine Worship, for the “updating” of the commemorations of the saints and the “possible insertion of new prefaces” into the Missal of 1962.(34) We can clearly see that the inclusion of new saints and prefaces shows that the usus antiquior is not a museum piece but a living and organic reality that will grow and develop.
In the introduction of the news saints a particular respect should be given to popular piety to avoid the mistakes that were made with the new calendar, a point that forcefully made by Cardinal Ratzinger.(35) With regards to the incorporation of the new saints some particularities of the traditional 1962 calendar would need to be taken into account. To give an example, the feast of Saint Maximilian Kolbe is celebrated on August 14th, as an obligatory memorial, which is equivalent to a Third Class feast on 1962 Calendar. On that date on the 1962 calendar we have the Vigil of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary which is a Second Class Feast, so as a consequence if the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe were to be introduced on the same date it will be permanently impeded because it will always be superseded by the Vigil. The feast of Padre Pio of Pietralcina is on September 23rd and certainly many faithful in Italy will be very glad if he were incorporated into the 1962 calendar. At the same time I would strongly suggest that it should be done keeping also in that date the feast of the second Pope of the Church, St. Linus whose feast is now celebrated in the 1962 Missal on that same date. Also I am in favor of keeping in that same date the Commemoration of Saint Tecla Virgin and Martyr to whom there is ancient devotion in Italy and in other parts of the world. With regards to the prefaces I have gone through some of the additional prefaces contained in the traditional missal that is used in France and they are very much worthy of being incorporated into the 1962 Missal.
This article of the Instruction has also a very positive implication because it assures that no other changes will be introduced in the 1962 Missal. It assures that the lectionary of this Missal will not be changed save the cases when a new saint is introduced and the new propers for this saint will have their own biblical readings, which in itself is a positive non objectionable development. It should be evident also that in the introduction of propers for new saints the structure and style of the 1962 missal has to be respected.
This instruction is issued in accordance with Can. 34 of the Code of Canon Law to be a proper interpretation and lead to the correct application of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.(36)
The competence of the Diocesan Bishops
With regards to the competence of the Diocesan Bishops, the Instruction reaffirms the principle that according to Canon Law, they have to monitor liturgical matters in order to guarantee the common good and to ensure that everything is proceeding in peace and serenity in their Dioceses. It is underlined in this document that this has to be done always in agreement with the mens (mind) of the Holy Father as it was clearly expressed by the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. It reaffirms what we have seen above that “In cases of controversy or well-founded doubt about the celebration in the forma extraordinaria, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei will adjudicate.” (37)
(To be continued)