Saturday, April 15, 2006

The queston of the future of the Roman rite

[These thoughts are of course simply an opinion piece on my part and are thrown out there for the sake of discussion and of interest. It is entirely speculative. I'm inviting friendly debate and discussion. Ultimately, whatever the Church so declares, so be it.]

In the comments section on one of the blog posts we've been discussing the question of the relationship of the classical Roman liturgy and the modern Roman liturgy (in the context of an eventual reform of the reform).

It brings up an interesting point, and one which certainly will not be devoid of controversy and debate.

I proposed the possibility, perhaps even the desireability (something I am not firmly convinced of or bound to I should note) of there being a permanent co-existence of the two missals -- I'll qualify this in a bit; the situation as its stands today must change. I used the expression of "two Roman rites" which was an idea which came up in the Fontgombault liturgical conference held in 2003 and hosted by Cardinal Ratzinger. That conference sought to bring together reform-of-the-reformers and those of the classical liturgical communities in an attempt, I think, to build consensus and alliances. (These conferences were published by St. Michael's Abbey Press under the title of Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy with Cardinal Ratzinger).

At my suggestion, this spurred some discussion by some of our faithful readers about the possibility, or impossibility of "two Roman rites". Historically of course, there has been one Roman rite, and there have been "uses" or variants on the Roman rite. The distinction between a "rite" and a "use" is a technical one, but it is a legitimate distinction.

Ultimately, my main point of interest isn't so much in the question of rite vs. use, but rather the future of both Roman missals: whether both can indefintely co-exist and develop, or whether this should only be a temporary situation that ultimately leads back to one united Roman missal -- a missal that rectifies the rupture in the organic development of the liturgy.

That's the background.

Historically, the idea of a multiplicity of rites and uses is, of course, not new. Today we are faced with a situation in the Roman rite whereby we have two missals in use. Whatever the status of the missals now (normative vs. indult, etc.) they do have a life of their own. The 1970 Missal is of course the most widely used Missal in the Catholic Church in the Latin rite and as such is considered the normative missal. On the other side we have the classical liturgical books which have now come to have entire parishes, religious orders, monasteries, priestly societies, seminaries and lay institutes associated with them.

And so the question then is how will things develop over time? Will they be re-united or will they co-exist somehow as defined by the Church? It's an interesting question and one I'm not convinced there is an absolute answer for since it isn't a dogmatic question.

As Fr. Kocik and others have excellently noted, we're in a situation right now where, at least some of us, including the likes of (then) Cardinal Ratzinger, Fr. Jonathan Robinson, Fr. Kocik himself, etc., believe there is a need for both the reform of the reform and a truly "wide and generous" application of the classical liturgy. A big part of this is because the latter can help the former. But the question is, as we pursue the reform of the reform on the one hand, and as we pursue the classical liturgy on the other (exercising the very fullest and best of that tradition and not it's less ideal applications prior to the Council), where we will be in a few decades?

At the heart of this issue is a pastoral question. During this time, there will be people, people with children, as well as priests, monks and nuns, whom will have grown up with one of these missals; who for, for them, this or that missal is their liturgical home. Surely that complicates the question? As well, the Church, with the painful memory of the schisms that happened after the Council, will desperately want to avoid this again as far as is humanly possible.

Now let me qualify. In speaking of the classical liturgical books, I'm not suggesting that this in the context as it stands today whereby the 62 Missal is frozen at the point it was at in 1962. If what I am proposing is even a possibility to come to pass, then it cannot stay frozen; rather it must undergo some kind of organic development a la the letter of Sacrosanctum Concilium and in that hermeneutics of continuity Pope Benedict has spoken of. This, too, is up to the Church. As to when that happens, this too is a pastoral question. The Church wishes to heal schisms, and wishes to be pastorally sensitive to the understandable reluctance we presently see to change to those liturgical books, but this can't be so forever.

Likewise, in regards the modern Roman liturgy, change cannot happen overnight. Perhaps we will first see the return of some Latin, alongside a better, more faithful and beautiful translation of the vernacular text. Hopefully we shall see a return of our tradition of chant and polyphony, as well the development of new variants on those musical traditions which grow organically from the old forms. Perhaps the addition of English forms of chant, perhaps variations on it which are evidently sacred and linked to our inheritance. After this, hopefully we shall see things move deeper, looking at the very missal itself, its rubrics, its options, its prayers, and examining how it might be brought back into a more organic relationship to the 1962/1965 that preceded it.

Presuming such development occurs, as we have two different starting points, and pastoral considerations to take into account on both sides, for some time we may still have two fairly unique sets of missals and liturgical traditions. Besides the missal itself, we have things such as the difference in the minor and major orders for example; the structure of the liturgical seasons and calendar, some different disciplines.

Some of these differences are likely to be minimized or eliminated as the reform of the reform proceeds, as well as the organic development of the classical liturgy, but others may well remain differences. Ultimately it is the Church who will decide what will go where, but where will things be, say, in another 40 years? An interesting question. It is very hard to say. As Fr. Kocik said, certainly we want to lessen the gap between the modern Roman missal and the 1962 liturgical books, but in the end we may be facing a scenario whereby both liturgies will still be unique (not in a bad way) depending upon how the Church has both proceed in the next decades.

Of course, this is all very speculative and abstract. But I would suggest that it is possible that, given how we have had a tradition of uses and multiple rites, given the potential pastoral considerations that may be faced, and given that this is not necessarily set in stone, the Church could determine it pastorally best to have these two variants co-exist somehow.

Which, however, is more ideal and how do each of you speculate thing may go in these regards? Let's discuss.

I'd be quite interested in hearing the perspective of some Eastern Christians on this.

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