Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Catholic Herald - Alcuin Reid piece

[The Catholic Herald has a piece today which features the matter of the Motu Proprio, the SSPX and the post-conciliar era. The article is really two articles put into the context of two different perspectives on the issue. One of the two articles is by Alcuin Reid. Now, if you wish to read the entire article, please click the source link at the bottom of this post.

Here, however, is the full text of Alcuin Reid's piece:]


Two feasts of Pope St Pius V (April 30 in the new calendar and May 5 in the old) have come and gone and we are still left asking: where is this motu proprio stating that the traditional liturgical rites may be celebrated freely? It is possible that by now it has been published. It’s also possible that it has not. The fact of the matter is, we simply don’t know when it will appear and conjecture or anxiety about its release date is simply not helpful.

But we do know that it shall appear. Cardinal Kasper recently lamented that “it is clear that the decision that has been made cannot now be changed.” And no less than the Holy Father’s closest collaborator, the Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone, “announced” the motu proprio in an interview with the French daily Le Figaro on March 31. In that interview he offered an insight into its rationale:

“The merit of the conciliar liturgical reform is intact. But both [for reasons of] not losing the great liturgical heritage left by St Pius V and for granting the wish of those faithful who desire to attend Masses according to this rite, within the framework of the Missal published in 1962 by Pope John XXIII, with its own calendar, there is no valid reason not to grant to priests in the entire world the right to celebrate according to this form.

“The authorisation of the Supreme Pontiff would evidently preserve the validity of the rite of Paul VI. The publication of the motu proprio which specifies this authorisation will take place, but it will be the Pope himself who will explain his motivations and the framework of his decision. The Sovereign Pontiff will personally explain his vision for the use of the ancient Missal to the Christian people, and particularly to the bishops.”

Until the document itself appears, this explanation of the motu proprio is probably the most authoritative and comprehensive insight into it that we shall have. It says a great deal about the importance of this forthcoming act of Benedict XVI.

“Not losing the great liturgical heritage left by St Pius V” surely means that there is or has been a risk of indeed losing it. It is likely that future liturgical historians will look back on this pontificate and attribute to it the re-connection of the Roman liturgy with its millennial tradition which was – to put it nicely – somewhat prejudiced by the “fabricated” (Cardinal Ratzinger’s word) rites which followed Vatican II. It seems that the Holy Father wants this ancient liturgical tradition to live and breathe freely in the Church of the future, once again to contribute its riches to the spiritual sustenance of the faithful of this and the coming generations, rather than be an archaeological reserve for nostalgics or a hobby for tweedy young fogies.

This will create a strikingly new situation in the life of the Church. As Cardinal Bertone affirms, the motu proprio will “preserve the validity of the rite of Paul VI”. It would be grossly insensitive, pastorally disastrous and quite impractical to attempt to abolish the modern rites by papal fiat. But in the light of the motu proprio the modern liturgical rites and their proponents will no longer enjoy the authoritative monopoly that has protected them for the past few decades. Benedict XVI will end this artificial and legalistic rigidity and open up the liturgical life of the Church so that it is more inclusive and pluralistic in a truly Catholic sense.

It may be that some parishes and communities will benefit from the use of both rites. It may be that some will find that one or the other serves them well. But in this new liturgical freedom it will be the needs of the coming decades – and not the diktat of individual popes, bishops, priests or liturgists – that will gradually decide the future of the modern rites, and indeed the extent of the use of the ancient ones.

This forthcoming act of the Pope should not be read in isolation. His recent emphasis in Sacramentum Caritatis on the ars celebrandi and his insistence on viewing the liturgical reform following Vatican II with an “hermeneutic of continuity” is itself nothing less than a call for an approach to the modern rites that is in harmony with the spirit of the liturgy as received in tradition. And let us not forget Redemptionis Sacramentum, the 2003 document which was a joint project of Cardinals Ratzinger and Arinze. As Cardinal Arinze said at the time: “The do-it-yourself Mass is ended. Go in peace.” These, together with the motu proprio, are pillars of what will become known as the liturgical reform of Benedict XVI.

Although Cardinal Bertone doesn’t say so explicitly, the motu proprio will also be, as the Abbot of Pecos recently put it, a “Christ-like gesture of pastoral love” towards the Society of St Pius X, after the model of the Good Shepherd who seeks out the one lost sheep. The new situation that it creates in the Church will serve as a catalyst towards reconciliation. Certainly, there are other issues to be addressed in dialogue with SSPX, but this step – for which they have long since asked – will be a significant one and a testament of the Pope’s goodwill and of his profound desire for unity within the Church. Please God, all involved will respond promptly and generously so that this anomaly is soon relegated to history for, quite frankly, while there is disunity among ourselves the work of converting the world to Christ and to His Church suffers. We know that there are bishops implacably opposed to this development. They are a problem. Yet there are other bishops who support it, as do almost all of the younger generation of priests and the vast majority of the faithful. But numbers do not matter. The Pope governs the universal Church and this act of governance motu proprio – of the Holy Father’s personal initiative – does not depend upon polls or opinions. It rests solely on what His Holiness, before God, judges to be for the good of the Church. Two curial cardinals have informed us that this judgment has been made, and while we wait for its precise details to appear we would do well to prepare to respond as generously as we are able to the Holy Father’s lead in this area.

Dr Alcuin Reid is a London-based liturgical scholar

Source: The Catholic Herald - Britain's leading Catholic newspaper

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