Monday, July 16, 2007

More Magister on Liturgy

Sandro Magister has a piece up today, Liturgy and Ecumenism: How to Apply Vatican Council II.

Here it is:

For Benedict XVI, there must not be rupture between the Church’s past and present, but rather continuity. He has given proof of this with his latest decisions – receiving less criticism than foreseen, and much more agreement. The comments of Ruini, Amato, De Marco

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, July 16, 2007 – Just a few months ago, the French bishops were extremely concerned about the news that Benedict XVI was preparing to liberalize the celebration of the Mass labeled as that of Pius V. “Such a decision endangers the Church’s unity,” wrote the most alarmed of them.

Benedict XVI shot straight from the hip, with the “motu proprio” released on July 7. But there was no reaction of rejection from the French bishops. Nor was there from the bishops of the touchiest countries: Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain. On the contrary, their most authoritative leaders hailed the pope’s decision with positive comments: from the German cardinal Karl Lehmann to the English cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, both ranked among the progressives.

The same happened with the document released on July 10 by the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, which nails down some firm points of doctrine about the Church. There was no comparison with the criticisms that in the summer of 2000 were hurled – even by high-ranking churchmen – against the declaration “Dominus Iesus,” signed by then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, which to a great extent dealt with the same points of doctrine. Cardinal Walter Kasper, one of the critics back then, decisively supported the Vatican document this time: “Clearly stating one’s own positions does not limit ecumenical dialogue, but fosters it.” And from Moscow, metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk, president of the department for external relations at the Russian Orthodox patriarchate, described the text as “an honest declaration, because sincere dialogue requires a clear vision of the respective positions.”

Criticisms did arrive, naturally, against both of these promulgations, from within and outside of the Church, and especially from Protestants and Jews. But in the Catholic camp the protests were limited to confined sectors, mostly Italian: the sectors of the liturgists and of the intellectuals who interpret Vatican Council II as a “rupture” and a “new beginning.”

Among the liturgists, the one most pained in contesting the papal “motu proprio” was Luca Brandolini, bishop of Sora, Aquino, and Pontecorvo, and a member of the liturgical commission of the Italian bishops’ conference, in an interview with the newspaper “la Repubblica”:

“I cannot hold back my tears; I am living through the saddest moment of my life as a bishop and as a man. This is a day of mourning not only for me, but for the many who have lived and worked for Vatican Council II. What has been negated is a reform for which many worked at the cost of great sacrifices, motivated solely by the desire to renew the Church.”

Among the theorists of Vatican II as a “rupture” and a “new beginning,” the most explicit against the papal provisions were the founder and prior of the monastery of Bose, Enzo Bianchi, and the historian of Christianity Alberto Melloni, coauthor of the most widely read “History of Vatican Council II” in the world. For Melloni, the objective of pope Ratzinger is nothing less than that of “deriding” and “demolishing” Vatican Council II.

But instead it is known that Benedict XVI’s clear objective – plainly enunciated and argued in the memorable discourse to the Roman curia on December 22, 2005 – is that of freeing the Council from a particular interpretation: precisely the interpretation of “rupture” and “new beginning” dear to Bianchi and Melloni.

"The hermeneutic of discontinuity,” the pope said in this address, “risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church".

While instead the correct interpretation of Vatican Council II, in the view of Benedict XVI, is this:

“... the hermeneutic of reform, of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.”

The “motu proprio” that liberalizes the ancient rite of the Mass and the successive document from the congregation for the doctrine of the faith are both applications of this stated aim.

The pope explained this in the letter to the bishops that accompanied the “motu proprio.” But he also had the foresight to expound and discuss his reasons on June 27, ten days before the publication of the “motu proprio,” with a select group of bishops from various countries, including the cardinals Lehmann, Murphy O’Connor, and Jean-Pierre Ricard, Philippe Barbarin, and André Vingt-Trois of France. This preliminary meeting with the pope contributed to the later positive welcome of the provision on the part of all of these.

Among the participants at the meeting there was also, for Italy, cardinal Camillo Ruini. On July 8, the day after the publication of the “motu proprio,” he published in the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, “Avvenire,” the editorial reproduced below.

Just after it, also on this page, is presented an interview with the secretary of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, archbishop Angelo Amato, coauthor of the document released the previous day. In it, he responds to some criticisms of the two latest papal proclamations, including the one in relation to the prayer for the conversion of the Jews in the rite of Holy Thursday in the missal attributed to Saint Pius V. The interview, released in “Avvenire” on July 11, was conducted by Gianni Cardinale.

Finally, as a third commentary written expressly for www.chiesa, there is a note by Pietro De Marco, professor at the University of Florence and at the Theological Faculty of Central Italy.

[The piece then continues with this one by Cardinal Ruini]

1. Solicitude for the Unity of the Church

by Camillo Ruini

Ten days ago, at the end of the meeting dedicated to the “motu proprio” on the use of the Roman liturgy before Vatican Council II, Benedict XVI wanted to illustrate personally the motives that prompted him to promulgate this text.

As the first and foremost of these motives, the pope indicated concern for the unity of the Church, a unity that subsists not only in space, but also in time, and which is incompatible with fractures and opposition among the various phases of its historical development.

This means that Pope Benedict has taken up again the central message of his address to the Roman curia on December 22, 2005, in which, forty years after the Council, he proposed as the key for interpreting Vatican II, not “the hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture,” but rather that “of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church.”

He is not in this way bringing to bear his own personal point of view or theological preference, but rather fulfilling the essential duty of the successor of Peter, who, as the Council itself says (Lumen Gentium no. 23), “is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful.”

At the same time, in the letter to bishops with which he accompanies and puts into their hands the “motu proprio,” Pope Benedict writes that the positive reason that induced him to publish it is that of reaching an internal reconciliation within the bosom of the Church. He expressly recalls how, looking to the divisions that have wounded the Body of Christ over the centuries, “one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity.”

From here, the pope continues, we receive the “obligation . . . to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew.”

It is only by putting ourselves on this wavelength that we can truly grasp the meaning of the “motu proprio,” and put it into practice in a positive an fruitful way.

In reality, as the pope explains abundantly in his letter, there is no foundation to the fear that the Council’s authority will be compromised and that the liturgical reform will be brought into doubt, or that the work of Paul VI and John Paul II will be discredited.

The missal of Paul VI remains, in fact, the “normal” and “ordinary” form of the Eucharistic liturgy, while the Roman missal from before the Council can be used as an “extraordinary form.”

This is not a question - the pope clarifies - of “two rites,” but of a twofold use of one and the same Roman rite. John Paul II, moreover, first in 1984 and then in 1988, had permitted the use of the missal from before the Council, for the same reasons that are now prompting Benedict XVI to take a further step in this direction.

Besides, such a further step is not one-way. It requires constructive will and sincere sharing of the intention that guided Benedict XVI: not only for the overwhelming majority of the priests and faithful who are comfortable with the reform that followed Vatican II, but also for those who remain deeply attached to the previous form of the Roman rite.

In concrete terms, the former are asked not to indulge, in the celebrations, in those abuses that unfortunately have not been lacking, and which obscure the spiritual richness and theological profundity of the missal of Paul VI.

The latter are asked not to exclude in principle the celebration according to this new missal, thus manifesting concretely their acceptance of the Council.

In this way, the risk will be averted that a “motu proprio” released in order to better unite the Christian community will instead be used to divide it.

In his letter the pope, addressing the bishops, emphasizes that these new norms “do not diminish in any way” their authority and responsibility for the liturgy and for the pastoral care of their faithful.

As Vatican II teaches (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 22), every bishop is in fact “the moderator of the liturgy in his diocese,” in communion with the pope and under his authority. This, too, is a criterion of the highest importance, in order that the “motu proprio” may bear the productive results for which it was written.

[The final piece on Summorum Pontificum concludes this entry]

3. The Medicine of Pope Benedict

by Pietro De Marco

In his letter “Summorum Pontificum,” Benedict XVI firmly indicated in the “Missale Romanum,” promulgated by Pius V and presented in an edition revised by John XXIII in 1962, a completely valid and current expression of the “lex orandi” – the rule of prayer – and of the “lex credendi” – the rule of faith. Next to the Missal promulgated in Paul VI in 1970, this represents a distinct use of the one rite of the Latin Church. Although it was marginalized, in fact, through the adoption of the modern languages in the liturgy, the Missal of 1962 was never “surpassed,” nor could it have been, much less “abrogated.” It has remained in effect, being itself “a living expression of the Church.”

The new legitimization of the “Missale Romanum” decreed by “Summorum Pontificum” brings Catholic life back to its essential nature of “complexio.” The pope proposes Catholic history prior to Vatican Council II as the living context of the “spirit” of the Council itself, and of its realization: a realization that many extremists have instead practiced as incompatible with the past.

Thus the objective of “internal reconciliation in the bosom of the Church” becomes part of a wider medicinal intervention for the universal Church, even independently from local tensions with schismatic minorities.

The same rare but virulent negative reactions to the “motu proprio” confirm, without meaning to do so, the urgency of this medicinal action by Pope Benedict.

These have raised two serious accusations against “Summorum Pontificum.”

On the one hand, this is thought to have impinged upon episcopal authority, because the Roman decision is imagined to have removed from the one who is by essence the liturgist of his church, the bishop, the authority to discipline the liturgical styles and intentions of the priests who celebrate by his delegation.

On the other hand, the “motu proprio” is thought to introduce a paradoxical form of liturgical relativism, a liturgy “to order,” according to the subjective preferences of the faithful.

The second objection is decidedly out of place. If anything has offered, for decades, a dangerously “à la carte” spectacle of liturgical styles, it is the rampant (and early, appearing right after the Council) abuse of the “interpretation” or “enculturation” of the rite of the Mass. Who does not recall the arbitrary suppression of prayers and gestures, and the illegitimate introduction of new liturgical texts, actors, and places? This led to the migration of believers in search for styles of celebration more in keeping with their taste, conservative or progressive. This problem has been known for some time: Benedict XVI’s recent act of governance was preceded by many warnings – above all by the instruction “Redemptoris Sacramentum” of April, 2004 – condemning the excessive “arbitrary deformations.”

The recovery of the ancient rite could, contrary to what is objected, act as a paradigm for stabilizing the fluctuating liturgies in the modern languages. As Cardinal Karl Lehmann, president of the German bishops, has noted, the “motu proprio” is a good occasion to promote with new attentiveness a fitting “ordinary” celebration of the Eucharist and of the other rites.

As for the first objection, the authority of the bishop is the subject of the accompanying letter by Benedict XVI to his “dear brothers in the episcopate.” In it, there is a reminder that the ancient rite is not a different rite, that its presence in the Christian people is a constructive memory, and that its celebration is legitimate and opportune.

The historical-traditional richness of Christian worship is, therefore, the primary reality to be drawn upon; and the authority exercised by the bishop-liturgist should be understood accordingly. The bishop does not generate autonomously, much less by inclination, neither the fact of the rite, which has its center in Christ, nor its form, which belongs above all to the one and universal Church. Besides – the pope explains in the letter to the bishops – the very men responsible for the unity of the Church have often failed, even in the recent past, to fulfill their primary task of avoiding or healing divisions.

So in what perspective should Benedict XVI’s act of governance be understood?

Above all, the new freedom to celebrate the Mass improperly called “pre-conciliar” will act as a corrective, if not as reparation, for an undue practical and ideological fracture worn out in the “hyper-conciliar” twentieth century. It is a fracture with the tradition of the modern Church, from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, and as concerning language, practically with the entire tradition.

This fracture was not intended by the constitution on the liturgy promulgated by Vatican Council II. It consists in the de facto negation of the spirit of the liturgy prior to the reform, implying or letting it be understood that this was inadequate in itself.

The initiative of Pope Benedict is thus confirmed as being directed against the ideological and substantially “revolutionary” interpretation made of the Council by the Catholic theological and pastoral elites, which has slowly spread among the clergy and the parishes.

There’s more. The renewed legitimacy of a Eucharist celebrated in the Latin language and according to the Roman Missal of 1962 would seem to be destined to bring back into balance not only the current excesses in ritual, language, and architecture, but also the frequent tendencies toward an emptying of the sacramentality of the celebrations. These are tendencies with worrying implications for the faith.

It is interjected that the Missal promulgated on March 26, 1970, with its traditional foundation formed through mature liturgical study, would have been sufficient to achieve these effects. No one is unaware of the enormous work of the congregation for divine worship over the decades, nor of John Paul II’s passion for the liturgical life of the Church: it’s enough to reread his letter “Dominicae Cenae” of February, 1980. But was has become of this richness in ordinary practice? What is their capacity for providing direction, and at the same time, containment for the “liturgical renewal” pursued by daily dilettantisms, often extraneous to the very idea of the sacredness of the Eucharist and of the sacrifice? There is a need for reflection on this proven impossibility of founding great works on the sand of post-conciliar rhetoric.

But from where could the rebalancing power of the “Tridentine” rite come? From at least three facts.

1. The Latin language fosters the perception of the ancient quality of the rite, of a primordial quality that the present cannot browbeat or domineer, but within which it necessarily implants itself, according to continuity. Even occasional, but no longer “transgressive,” participation in the ancient rite in Latin helps to understand that tradition and innovation have a necessary relationship and a mutual power of moderation. This is known to the few believers who have attended in these decades the liturgies celebrated in Latin in the monasteries, even more so than with the “traditionalist” liturgies.

2. The ritual form and discipline of the ancient Mass teach faith precisely through their way of teaching prayer. Especially the celebrant’s “facing the Lord” – which is not his “turning his back” to the people, as many senselessly repeat – together with the whole assembly, as well as the unusual position of the altar with respect to those around it, lead to new reflection on sacred space and time, on their meaning and foundation. New reflection, but not in a “new” manner: rather in the pathway of the Catholic tradition, Latin and Eastern.

Neither the gathered community, nor its sentiments, nor its sociality or company are, in fact, the linchpin of the “sacrificium missae.” It is not the behavior of the assembly that counts: the temptation of the “active liturgy” is a pragmatist temptation of which liturgists, pastoralists, and the planners of sacred buildings seem to be unaware. On the contrary, the action of the praying community comes under the norm of the sacramental sacrifice, and must draw its own profile from this; action is at the service of the “divina mysteria.” The divine Priest sacrifices himself to the Father, and the celebrant and the assembly are drawn into this abyss, in its direction. The canon of the Mass gives this the greatest prominence.

But symbolically, everything is clearer for the faithful when they are permitted to look beyond the altar, toward the Lord. Facing the Lord is opposed to the temptation, even of the liturgists, to conceive of the altar as a “spectaculum” at the center of the assembly. Is the offering to the Father of the one Priest adequately displayed in the current direct conversation between celebrant and people? Today the assembly appears predominately turned toward the celebrant, and the celebrant toward the assembly, with a dangerous effect of immanence, if not of the appropriation of initiative. The temptation to consider the assembly as a sacrament, at the expense of the Trinitarian “mystery of the faith” at work in the liturgical action, is evident every Sunday.

3. A liturgy that according to ancient and constant tradition “has at it center the Most Holy Sacrament that shines with vibrant light” (as the great liturgist Josef A. Jungmann put it) implies a catechesis and a preaching of the real presence of Jesus in the bread and wine, of the “God with us” dear to Joseph Ratzinger the theologian. In short, there will be renewed attention to the sacraments as a proclamation of reality, beyond the levels - and the undeniable but secondary values – of the communal and affective “participation” of the assembly.

This is the hope that seems to lie in the decision of pope Benedict: the hope that making trial today of the essential presence of tradition among us may act as medicine for the disorientation of so many of the Christian faithful. The hope of a “christifidelis laicus” such as myself is that, with the consent of the bishop, the pastors may make possible the celebration of the Mass at least once a week, best if on a Sunday or feast day, according to the “Missale Romanum” of John XXIII, thus helping all to recover the deep meaning of the ancient liturgical tradition, and bringing reconciliation to cultures, generations, and spiritualities within the Church.

In any case it must be avoided that the request for the ancient Mass in Latin should become the demand of minorities that see themselves as excluded and antagonized. The bishops, pastoralists, and liturgists must be asked to try solutions quickly that are capable of meeting the situations of the individual dioceses. And from Rome – above all from the Vatican commission “Ecclesia Dei” – we are awaiting solid guidance on the ways to implement the “motu proprio,” beyond the theological and spiritual reasons that animate it.

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