Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Tablet, the LMS, the Usus Antiquior and the Foreword of Archbishop Vincent Nichols

Recently, there has been a great deal of discussion and commentary surrounding a rather controversial editorial commentary, The Old Rite put in its Place, in the British progressivist journal, The Tablet, which surrounds the matter of the place of the usus antiquior generally in the life of the Church and an upcoming usus antiquior training conference in the Archdiocese of Westminster which the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales is coordinating at All Saints Pastoral Centre from August 24th to 28th.

The general tone and flavour of that editorial can be summarized neatly by this statement: "...the Tridentine Rite can henceforth take its proper – and necessarily marginal – place in the life of the Catholic Church." Clearly this is problematic.

The matter was spurred on because of a foreword that was included by Archbishop Vincent Nichols in the booklet that is being prepared for that same training conference.

While the aforementioned editorial was suggestive of a general slight against the usus antiquior and could even be understood as attempting to portray Archbishop Nichols against Pope Benedict XVI, another article in The Tablet, Westminster warns Latin Mass supporters, instead suggested that the motivation for the foreword was that "[t]here have been questions over whether elements within the LMS see the newer form of the Mass as valid." The article continues, suggesting that "[t]his was part of a dispute within the society earlier this year when more moderate members of the leadership resigned..." after "some on the leadership committee where unhappy when Archbishop Nichols celebrated the new rite in Latin at a conference at Merton College in 2007." In other words, it is suggesting that the letter targets a certain stream of thought found within some members of the LMS -- and really, with some within the "traditionalist movement" generally as we have recently discussed here.

Ever since there has been much indirect discussion of this foreword by way of these two articles, though the foreword itself has not been presented to my knowledge. Accordingly, the NLM thought it would source out the full text of Archbishop Nichols foreword so that people might read it and consider it for themselves.

Here is the text of that foreword in full.

Priests’ Residential Training Conference, 24-28 August 2009
All Saints Pastoral Centre, London Colney, Herts

Message from the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster.

I welcome this short Training Conference provided by the Diocese of Westminster in conjunction with the Latin Mass Society. This is the correct description of this event. In both the teaching and law of the Church it is the bishop who has responsibility for the provision and oversight of the Liturgy.

In the Motu Proprio ‘Summorum Pontificum’ Pope Benedict permitted the use of the 1962 Form of the Mass, under clearly defined circumstances. In doing so he insisted that there is one Rite of the Mass in the Latin Church. This makes clear that the ordinary Form of the Mass and this extraordinary Form serve one and the same Rite. They are, therefore, both finding their place in this Summer School and participants will wholeheartedly celebrate the Mass in each of these Forms. The view that the ordinary Form of the Mass, in itself, is in some way deficient finds no place here. Indeed anyone who holds such a view does not come under the generous provision of ‘Summorum Pontificum’. Such a person is inexorably distancing themselves from the Church.

The Mass is the source and expression of the unity of the Church, for that unity comes from Christ. We have no other. Our unity does not consist in a uniformity of personal use or preference. Indeed, such matters should play a minimum part in our liturgy, particularly in the ministry of the priest. What we priests are to provide, as a key element of our ministry, is the Liturgy of the Church.

The established principle of good liturgy – such as the ‘active participation’ of all taking part in the Mass, in both the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist – apply whichever Form of the Mass is being used. This principle needs careful consideration and application by every celebrant and any who help in the preparation of the liturgy. I trust it will find its place in this Summer School.

Pope Benedict has given an additional and delicate task to priests and bishops: the provision of the extraordinary Form of the Mass in response to genuine needs as outlined in the Motu Proprio. I am grateful to you all for helping us to respond to this task, always within the work of sustaining and nurturing the unity of the Church.

+Vincent Nichols

Interestingly then, the theme of this brief foreword really just picks up on a theme which the motu proprio (or more specifically, the accompanying letter to the bishops) addressed, which is that there must not be a spirit of "either-or" but instead one of "both-and", at very least as a point of principle:
...in order to experience full communion, the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness.

Of course, what is said of "the priests of the communities adhering to the former usage" can clearly be brought down to the level of all clergy and faithful. However, it is also worth noting -- something the Tablet editorial evidently missed -- that this works both ways, and that too is covered elsewhere in the two documents associated with the motu proprio. This is something which I am hopeful our leaders will also speak on further and clearly, as it also needs to be addressed.

I would note that this specific theme is generally a matter which we have been discussing recently, and it is a very necessary subject to address indeed for wherever there are elements which would adopt principles which put them in diametric opposition, be it to the one or the other form of the Roman liturgy, to the Magisterium, to the Holy Father, or to the Church generally, or which would adopt a spirit of rupture and discontinuity over one of continuity and reform in continuity, this is assuredly not the right path and needs to be corrected.

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