Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On Universae Ecclesiae: Part II - Further Commentary and Considerations

[References: See Universae Ecclesiae. See Part I: Some Analysis and Commentary]

In this second part I wish to put forward some of the further considerations which arose for me, coming either directly in relation to the instruction or indirectly.

The Primatial Sees

Number 34 of Universae Ecclesiae has made the important clarification that religious may use the liturgical books proper to their Order -- a most welcome affirmation and clarification. But of course, while one can and should rejoice at this, one cannot help but think of the diocesan liturgical books, such as those of Lyons, Braga, Toledo and Milan.

Evidently there is a certain complexity here as it relates to these liturgical books, the Sees to which they belong, and Rome. For that reason, and for that reason alone, it should probably come as little surprise that the rites of the religious orders receive an explicit mention in the instruction while the rites of the primatial sees do not. But does this actually exempt them or mean that the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum should be understood as not applying to them? I would propose that the answer is no.

Whatever the complexity between Rome and these Sees on this matter, and therefore between Summorum Pontificum and these liturgical books as well, I would suggest that the principles found within Pope Benedict's motu proprio and corresponding letter, being general Catholic principles, must be understood as having weight not only with regard to the Roman liturgical books and the liturgical books of the religious orders, but also in relation to the liturgical books of the primatial sees. Indeed, there are two aspects to the motu proprio -- and this comes out in the instruction as well. On the one hand, there is a practical aspect which naturally speaks to the specifics of that which Rome has direct regulation over; these aspects are concerned with matters of law and liturgical practice as it relates to those particular liturgical books. On the other hand, there is also a teaching aspect to the documents, whereby Pope Benedict XVI enunciates certain Catholic principles related to the sacred liturgy and our approach to our traditional liturgical books and practice; this teaching naturally sets the foundation for the aforementioned practical aspects and consequences of the motu proprio, and most certainly must be understood as applying to all Catholic rites and uses. Indeed, if the teaching aspect of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum is rightly understood to be far reaching as a set of Catholic first principles (and how could they not?), how then could the practical effects of these same principles be not likewise understood to be far reaching? If, as the motu proprio states, the usus antiquior of the Roman rite "must be given due honour for its venerable and ancient usage" -- an honour to be expressed in both theory and in practice -- and if, as the accompanying letter notes, "what earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden...", how then could these principles not likewise be understood to apply to the ancient Ambrosian, Mozarabic, Lyonese or Bragan liturgies as well? It seems clear enough to me that it must be understood to so apply.

Accordingly, I believe it is reasonable and just to affirm, and even to expect that, by virtue of these first principles, the clerics and faithful of sees such as Milan (for example) must likewise be able to freely and liberally avail themselves of their own liturgical patrimony.

However, at this point I should note that what this demonstrates to me is not so much a gap within the instruction itself, but rather a gap which needs to be filled on the part of the Primatial Sees as a response to Pope Benedict's teaching and example.

The Breviarium Romanum

As noted in part one, the question of whether a cleric was required to use the Latin edition of the older Roman breviary, or if he could not use an approved vernacular translation to fulfill his obligations, was a question which often arose amongst the clergy since the release of the motu proprio in 2007. That question is now answered.

There are two angles on this which come to my own mind -- and we should recall we are speaking here of clerics praying the breviary, not laity who are praying it privately and devotionally, under no canonical obligation.

One the one hand, anything which helps in the fostering and preservation of the use of liturgical Latin should always be understood as a good thing of course; after all, it aligns with our Roman tradition and as such is a continuity point. Moreover, in this specific instance it also aligns with this section of Sacrosanctum Concilium:

101. 1. In accordance with the centuries-old tradition of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in the divine office.

(In that regard, this makes this both a very Roman and a very conciliar decision.)

This will also give assurances of the continued use of Latin within the context of parish vespers -- at least when we are speaking of parish vespers as celebrated according to these particular liturgical books. This also strikes me as an immense good.

On the other hand, given the catch-up having to be played by many clerics with regard to Latin, the one unfortunate side effect may be that fewer clerics may now opt to use the older Roman Breviary than otherwise would -- which itself could become a stepping stone to using the Missal of the usus antiquor. In addition to the latter possibility, such usage would certainly bring about a further and more deeply embedded contact with the older liturgical calendar; this is a good in and of itself, but also something which I believe would be very useful from the perspective mutual enrichment and the reform of the reform.

As such, I am admittedly of two minds here.

Latin Comprehension

Tied to the consideration of the breviary above, as well as to the requirements made more generally about the ability of the priest to pronounce and have a basic reading comprehension of the Latin texts of the Missal (and evidently also the breviary), an important point arises. Much emphasis has been given over the past four years to training sessions in the ceremonies and rubrics of the usus antiquior. This is good and should continue. However, there is an urgent and pressing need to provide effective sessions and resources which will help seminarians and clergy pick up this basic Latin ability in as an effective and efficient a way as possible in the here and now. Obviously this should ideally start in the home, in the schools and in the seminaries, but this may well not happen overnight and thus doesn't address the present needs. Clearly we must work to see this education effected in our Catholic institutions for the sake of the future, but we should likewise work to find interim solutions that will serve the present moment.

Accordingly, those who are already coordinating training sessions should give this immediate consideration. Perhaps intensive tutorial sessions could be coordinated. Furthermore, self-learning resources or online tutorials should be identified (or even developed) with the specific focus upon the Latin of the breviary and missal if at all possible.

(Needless to say, this same initiative is also quite relevant from the perspective of the modern Roman liturgy and the reform and the reform and thus serves a broader purpose well beyond the usus antiquior.)

Diocesan Ordinations

31. Only in Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life which are under the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, and in those which use the liturgical books of the forma extraordinaria, is the use of the Pontificale Romanum of 1962 for the conferral of minor and major orders permitted.

This, of course, has become one of the most talked about sections of the instruction. In practice it is a clarification which is likely to have little noticeable effect since in most instances the use of the rites of ordination as found in the modern Roman liturgical books would be what one would expect as the typical practice for diocesan ordinations -- and for that reason as well, it does seem to beg the question of why such a blanket restriction should be made by Ecclesia Dei?

Simply on the level of principle it is rather curious that the Ordinary should not have the liberty to be able to make use of one or another of the two forms of ordination, including as a response to the expressed desires of his ordinands should that exist.

I suspect pragmatic considerations may well have driven this matter, but for the sake of principle we can hope that the matter might be revisited.

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