Friday, October 13, 2006

The Possible Future of the Tridentine Liturgy: An Analysis

There is a great deal of speculative journalism going on with regards to the Tridentine document forthcoming, which is perhaps mixing up what we presently know about this document as it may stand, and what are perhaps some of the lobbying and/or debates that are behind the scenes in regard to it.

I should like to break down the matter by looking at the possible end results that might forthcome from all this, if we base it upon what some journalists are suggesting they are hearing, and then analyze these in the light of the liturgical considerations of Benedict.

Let me note, this is not a prediction. It's an attempt to dissect all the stories that are out there that we might think about the issue critically and responsibly.

Possible Liturgical Ends of the Tridentine Document:

1) The Ordinary/Normative Model: Total liberalization of the 1962 Missale Romanum within an ordinary model -- no restrictions at all.

2) The Extraordinary/Normative Model: Near total liberalization within an "extra-ordinary" model. Normative in that sense of full allowance and full membership in the Roman rite, but not the ordinary rite. No permission is required, but with possible guidelines in terms of how much it might be used in a typical diocesan parish setting in relation to the ordinary rite.

3) The Inversed-Indult Model: Permission is a granted norm, excepting at the intervention of the local Ordinary who may choose, within certain defined criterions, to not allow.

4) The Free-upon-local-Conditions Model: Permission is granted, but the local Ordinary may choose to lay down the local diocesan conditions whereby that permission can be exercised in public masses -- e.g. perhaps a numerical matter of 30 or more faithful requesting, etc. -- but where, theoretically at least, if those criterion are filled, the Ordinary is not to deny.

Benedict's Liturgical and Pastoral Thought:

1) Leaven is needed for the reform of the reform, but it must occur in a way which is not an adminstrative tinkering with the Pauline books, as happened at the Council, and which Benedict is steadfast in resisting as an approach. He has long seen the 1962 Missale Romanum as having an answer to this. It's wider celebration, and permeation into the greater parish life of the Roman rite might thereby help kickstart the reform of the reform.

2) Benedict was dismayed at the abolishment of this rite which had grown up through the centuries, something he saw as very damaging and unprecedented.

3) Benedict desires to reach out to groups like the SSPX, for whom the free celebration of this rite, and its non-indult status is an important point.

4) Aware of the crisis in the Church, liturgically, theologically, etc. and the hermeneutic of rupture, there is a need to draw traditional liturgics, theology, formation and so on very clearly in the heart and centre, and no longer be written off as somehow "fringe" that the voice of the tradition may again be more clearly heard and that a hermeneutic of continuity may be more clearly seen.

5) Pastorally, Benedict is aware that despite the problems with the Pauline reforms, this is also a liturgy that has been around for decades and which many are now used to, or have only known. A radical shift will be harmful in his view just as it was following the Council. He will want to pastorally protect those faithful from this.

6) He will want to respond to the concerns of the bishops and will want to somehow give them some assurance so as not to provoke new schisms, and to help secure their tacit cooperation in the matter so that points 1 and 3 might also be accomplished still.

7) He will want to make clear that this is not a rejection of the Council or the principle of the Conciliar liturgical reform, while balancing this with point 1 and the need for a reform of the reform.

Analysis of these Possible Ends in the light of these Benedictine Considerations:

Model #1: (the ordinary/normative model that sees absolutely no restrictions) seems unlikely as there would be too much opposition from members of the episcopate and parts of the Curia. While it might work out fine, many would critique this, rightly or wrongly, as a rejection of the Council. Benedict, I think, cannot afford the document to be too utterly controversial as it could then backfire and not have the effects desired for the reform of the reform, for groups like the SSPX, etc. As well, he will want to protect consideration #5 in regard to the faithful accustomed to the Pauline rite.

Model #3: (the inversed indult; whereby permission is granted unless explicitly denied by the bishop) seems possible but a little less likely in regards to the SSPX issue on the one hand, and secondarily, perhaps, in Benedict's awareness that there have been trials in applying the existing indult of 1988. The SSPX will likely see this as not being a real shift, since ultimately an arbitrary judgement on the part of the Ordinary could still occur. Moreover, it also has the greater potential to not allow the same leavening effect for the reform of the reform. After model #2, this model does seem to be a very strong contender as a possibiilty with the caveat that it depends upon the nature and conditions of the Bishop's authority to disallow, which could thus also lessen the SSPX's concerns about arbitrary disallowance.

Model #4: faces very similiar issues as #3, but seems even less likely than #3.

Model #2: would seem to meet all the considerations of Benedict the best. The denotation of ordinary vs. extraordinary, and any numerical stipulation about what may or may not happen in non-personal parishes protects the status of the FSSP, etc. while also addressing the pastoral concerns of the typical diocesan parish, and potentially can assauge the concerns of those bishops who simply are concerned with the matter from a pastoral perspective, rather than an ideological opposition to the 1962 Missal. Such a denotation and "caveat" also protects the idea that this is not a rejection of the Council, while allowing for the greatest overall freedom (which the SSPX will want to see) for the 1962 Missal. This in turns bodes the best for it kickstarting a reform of the reform.

Further considerations that could influence the model chosen:

The wildcard in all these considerations comes down to the bishops and the level of their opposition. How will Benedict manage this? Will he be able to do so without compromising his own liturgical vision to date? This is a key question that we cannot answer.

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