Saturday, February 19, 2011

Concerns Over Possible Instruction on Summorum Pontificum Leads to Discussion of Liturgical Principles

As you all know by now, recently an appeal was launched, which is ongoing, expressing first and foremost thanks to the Holy Father for the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, and wishing at the same time to express some concerns to our Supreme Pastor about reports which have been circulating about potentially limiting/restrictive aspects or language in relation to a forthcoming instruction pertaining to the same motu proprio.

As I noted originally, while we cannot presume to know what the, as yet, unpublished instruction might say, there was and is credible enough reason to have at least some concern and, therefore, to calmly and respectfully lay this matter before the feet of our beloved Holy Father, noting our concern about this prospect, while also sharing with him our hopes, desires and needs -- both with him, and really with our pastors generally. (In addition, many others have also made the very sound recommendation to take the matter to prayer. This should never be forgotten, and should be primary in fact.) Come what may, this is a worthwhile exercise, and as also previously noted, if these concerns should prove to have been unnecessary (which we may never know), then we shall happily rejoice.

This said, I do wish to mention -- as it sets the context for what I am about to share with you -- that various sources are suggesting that two of the purported aspects which may be contained within the forthcoming instruction, and which are causing some of the concern, pertain to, (a) the matter of the other rites/uses of the Western Church -- e.g. the ancient Ambrosian rite, the Dominican rite, etc. and (b) the ability of bishops in diocesan circumstances to use the rite of ordination as found in the 1962 Pontificale Romanum.

Again, I would be quick to note that at this point, this is merely purported and we can know nothing for certain until we see a document, nor do we know if this represents the entirety of the reasons that various sources are suggesting reasons for concern, but, regardless, these two points are interesting to use as a springboard for general discussion in and of themselves, for they invite a consideration of what the motu proprio might mean for the liturgical life of the Church; that discussion would be worth having regardless of this other matter.

With regard to the aforementioned question of the other liturgical rites and uses, a quick comment. It will probably come as little surprise that those should continue to be understood as falling under the jurisdiction of their respective Sees and religious orders. (I doubt anyone should reasonably expect otherwise.) But this said, certainly there would be potentially important liturgical matters at stake (of both principle and spirit) if these were to be explicity exempted. But aside from the particular matter of the instruction, this has been a point of some debate in the past years since the motu proprio, for it asks some fundamental questions of what place those liturgical rites and uses should also have in continuing the life of the Church. Should not the underlying principles and spirit of Summorum Pontificum (unity, generosity, mutual enrichment, continuing sacrality and riches) apply equally (at least in principle if not in law) to the other liturgical rites and uses in the Western Church? -- which are, after all, also an important part of our liturgical patrimony. Should we not, here too, "preserve the riches which have developed in the Church's faith and prayer, and... give them their proper place." (Explanatory Letter on "Summorum Pontificum", Benedict XVI) How then should what has been applied within the context of the Roman rite apply in these cases as well, and how can and ought that be manifest? It is an interesting and important discussion and one which I hope will be explored further and specifically in the near future.

As to the other purported matter, which relates to the use of the Pontificale Romanum, this will be our primary point of focus today. Dr. Alcuin Reid has written an article that is relevant in the light of the matters currently under discussion. Here it is for your own consideration and discussion: Summorum Pontificum: A New Foundation for Liturgical Law

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