Monday, May 30, 2011

Roman Conference on Summorum Pontificum - Day 2

The second day of the recent conference on the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum was dedicated to a series of eight talks given in the Aula Minor of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, (also known as the Angelicum). The talks ran for four hours in the morning and four in the afternoon, with breaks, lunchtime, and a Rosary. Obviously, it will not be possible to give more than a fairly brief summary of them here; the texts of the last conference were made available at this one, and there are of course plans to publish the texts of this conference in time for the next one, if not sooner. (My apologies to our readers for the delay in getting this out; I have been laid low by a serious allergy season!)

The first four speakers at the conference; from left to right, Bishop Schneider, Bishop Aillet, Cardinal Canizares and Cardinal Koch. Photo courtesy of Orbis Catholicus.

The first speaker was His Eminence Antonio Cardinal Canizares-Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, who spoke on “The Sacred Liturgy as the Life of the Church.” In the well-known words of the Second Vatican Council’s very first decree, Sacrosanctum Concilium, the liturgy must be at the center of the Church’s life, its source and summit. According to the Cardinal, the post-conciliar liturgical reform brought certain advantages, such as the more active and fruitful participation of the faithful, and an enriched use of scriptural texts, but also saw “deformations of the liturgy at the limits of the tolerable,” (and indeed, we might add, beyond tolerable,) citing the words of the Pope himself in the letter to the Bishops that accompanied the 2007 motu proprio.

The Cardinal also insisted very strongly on the relationship between the motu proprio and a correct “hermeneutic of continuity of the Council.” The two forms of the Roman Rite are not in conflict with each other; each shares in the unity of the church, even though some of the post-conciliar reforms have gone far beyond the letter of Sacrosanctum Concilium. As he sees it, the current problem of the liturgy and of future reform lies not in the particular form of the liturgy itself, but in its sense and spirit; the Church needs to return to the true sense of Sacrosanctum Concilium and the original liturgical movement.

The second speaker, His Excellency Marc Aillet, Bishop of Bayonne, France, entitled his talk “Spirit of the Liturgy, Liturgy of the Spirit”, discussing the question of the “mutual enrichment” of the two form of the Roman Rite. Bishop Aillet is a member of the Communauté Saint Martin, a group who have used the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite in a very tradition-minded way for many years, with much Latin and gregorian chant. He spoke of the use of Latin in both forms as a veil which covers the sacred mysteries celebrated in the liturgy, just as the Ark of the Covenant, the holiest object in the Jewish Temple, was not to be seen or touched by ordinary hands. A comparison may be made with the Byzantine use of the iconostasis, which also veils the sacred mysteries in such a way that can be heard but not seen. (This comparison was also made by Fr. Calvin Goodwin F.S.S.P., in his homily at the Mass broadcast on EWTN on the day the motu proprio went into effect.)

Bishop Aillet also cited the words of Pope Benedict in Sacramentum Caritatis that active participation can be found in silence and meditation, an interior participation which does not require gesture and speech. His Excellency repeated the Pope's observation that the post-conciliar reform has introduced two moments of silence into the rite of Mass, one after the homily, and one after communion. Of these two, the former has not been a success, since the faithful just wait for the priest to “start up again”; the silence after the communion, on the other hand, has been successfully incorporated into the rite. (I would add that such a silence exists de facto in the traditional rite as well, since the faithful normally have time for silent prayer during the ablutions and re-stacking of the chalice.)

Quoting a Muslim who said that if Christians really believed in the Real Presence, they would prostrate themselves before it, His Excellency noted that this is hardly practicable, and prostrations are used for other things in the Latin Church, such as the ordination rites. However, a return to the reception of communion kneeling and on the tongue, already seen in the Papal Mass, would be a good step to restoring greater reverence for the True Presence of Christ in the Sacrament. He concludes by citing the words of the Pope again, written before his election, that at some point in the future, the Church must return to having a single rite, but one more firmly anchored in tradition.

The third speaker was Kurt Cardinal Koch, the recently named President of the Pontifical Council for the Unity of Christians, formerly bishop of Basel, Switzerland; His Eminence spoke on “The Ancient Liturgy of the Church, an Ecumenical Bridge.” Rejecting the idea that the broad permission for use of the older form of the Roman Rite is in some way an attack on the ecumenism of the post-conciliar period, he ascribed such an idea to a series of falsely construed oppositions. Thus, for example, the Sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist should not be set against the idea of the Eucharist as a Sacred Banquet in commemoration of the life of Christ; Sacrifice unites the Eucharist and Eucharistic piety to the sacrificial life of Christ Himself. The unification of thanksgiving and sacrifice is not a medieval relic, but a necessary part of the liturgy, richly expressed by the traditional Roman Canon; His Eminence very rightly suggested that the Roman Canon needs to be put to greater use in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

Likewise, the widespread rejection of Eucharistic Adoration on “ecumenical” grounds after the Council is entirely contrary to the tradition of the Fathers. Eucharistic Adoration should be seen as a prophetic foreshadowing of the heavenly liturgy described in the Apocalypse; in Heaven, Sacrifice and Consecration will cease, but Adoration will not.

The Cardinal described the recovery of Tradition as a way towards renewed understanding with other Christian confessions. For example, celebration towards God, or, as detractors of the practice say, with the priest’s back to the people, is a very ancient Christian liturgical tradition, in which all the faithful and clergy turn together towards the Lord. Practices of this sort are common not only to other Christian denominations, but to many other religions; turning the altars was not foreseen or supposed by the Council. The priest facing the people does not “show respect for the(m)” in any meaningful way: when the Cardinal said that “no-one complains that the driver of a bus is looking at the street and has his back turned towards the passengers!”, the lecture hall exploded with applause.

The morning’s last talk was given by His Excellency Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan, on “The Minor Orders and Service at the Altar.”

He began by noting how from the very earliest times, the threefold Christian hierarchy of bishop, priest and deacon was compared to the threefold Jewish hierarchy of the high priest, priest and levite. Such a comparison is frequently made in the traditional rites of ordination, and deacons are called levites already by Pope Clement I in the first century.

The deacon’s role in the liturgy is one of the service to the priest, and this role is proper to his office, and not to the faithful as a whole. In ancient times, there were very few deacons, (Rome itself had only seven at any given time), who fulfilled only the most important roles; from the second century on, the Church began to associate other “orders” with the diaconate, the subdiaconate, the lectorate etc. These roles were always called “orders” until the 1972 decree Ministeria quaedam, in which the proper roles of the minor orders were attributed to the common priesthood of the faithful, and hence, the remaining two minor orders, now called “munera" (duties), opened to women. His Excellency noted that in Rome, women still do not serve in Papal liturgies, but outside Rome, women have in fact acted as servers in Papal liturgies, even though this is in theory prohibited by the Code of Canon Law.

From this arises the proposal made during the Bishops’ Synod on the Word of God to admit women to the lectorate; at which point, according to Bishop Schneider, the next logical step would be to admit women to the diaconate. (It should be noted that at least one cardinal has proposed that women be admitted to the diaconate, on the grounds that Pope John Paul II’s Ordinatio sacerdotalis only spoke about the priesthood.) Such an act would however be contrary to the teaching of the Council of Trent and the common tradition shared by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches; Trent accepted the idea of admitting married men to the minor orders, but never women. (His Excellency, a graduate of the Augustinian Patristic Institute in Rome, also noted that modern historical research has shown conclusively that there were never deaconesses in the modern sense of sacramental deacons in the Church.)

In the kingdom of Christ, there can be no race or contest for “power” in the act of Divine Worship; all must be filled with a spirit of humility and self-denial. His Excellency concluding by stating that we should ask the grace from God that the Holy Father issue a motu proprio to restore the minor orders in accord with the traditional discipline still maintained by the oriental Churches. (This statement was followed by thunderous applause.) No council, and certainly not Vatican II, ever asked for the abolition of the minor orders, or for any change to their arrangement or nature. Such a motu proprio would be a necessary compliment to Summorum Pontificum, a gift to the Church, and an enhancement of the sacred character of the liturgy.

A small part of the crowd in attendance at the conference in the Aula Minor of the Angelicum. Photo courtesy of Orbis Catholicus.

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