Thursday, June 02, 2011

Roman Conference on Summorum Pontificum - Day 2 (continued)

The first talk of the afternoon was given by Monsignor Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei.” The Monsignor had accepted an invitation to speak on the current status of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum many months before the publication of the recent instruction Universae Ecclesiae, which by pure coincidence was finally issued on the opening day of the conference itself. His talk therefore was duly updated to account for this most recent and significant development.

The Monsignor began by explaining briefly the contents of the instruction and the ideas behind it. As announced in Summorum Pontificum, the Holy See requested the world’s bishops to suggest what matters such an instruction should address. Among the main problems noted were: the lack of priests who know how to celebrate the traditional rite; lack of knowledge of both Latin and Gregorian chant; the need to established the precise meaning of “coetus stabilis” (stable group); and the need to instruct the faithful that the two forms of the Roman Rite enrich each other, and should not be seen to be in conflict. Some bishops have spoken of the positive influence of the Ordinary Form on the celebration of the Extraordinary Form; others have noted interest in the latter is growing particularly among the young. Concerns have also been expressed that the return to regular use of the traditional liturgy may be used as a challenge to the Second Vatican Council.

The application of Summorum Pontificum has been uneven and “it would be naive to deny there is still resistance and hostility (to it) on the part of the clergy and the bishops...”, a hostility which the Monsignor attributes above all to the fear that the motu proprio will lead to the de facto establishment of two different churches. However, this resistance must be brought to an end by observing the directives of the motu proprio exactly, and by accepting the intentions behind it: to recognize the value of the liturgical reform, and that of the great treasure of the traditional liturgy. The instruction therefore has been issued precisely as a means to bring this about.

In specific terms, although there is a certain continuity between the actions of Pope Benedict and those of Pope John Paul II in regard to the traditional rite, Summorum Pontificum is a universal law for the entire Church, not for a particular group, and with it, the previous status of “indult” is brought to an end. At the same time, the Monsignor was careful to underline the “substantial unity between the two forms of the Rite.”

Of particular importance is the repeated insistence statement that both the instruction and the Motu Proprio are issued not only for the sake of those faithful who already know and love the traditional rite, but to help all Catholics live the truth of the liturgy as desired by the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, which sought to reform the liturgy in continuity with tradition.

Monsignor Pozzo went on to discuss the application of the motu proprio and the new instruction in regard to specific situations and questions such as the meaning of “stable group”, the celebration of the Triduum, and the use of the older Pontifical for ordinations. These details of the Instruction have already been extensively discussed elsewhere; I plan to give my analysis of some aspects of this talk in particular on another occasion. In conclusion, the Monsignor noted that the instruction and Summorum Pontificum “(a)re not a step backwards, but look to the future of the Church, which can never build by destroying or obscuring the spiritual, liturgical and doctrinal riches of its past, just as it can never shut itself off from renewal and coherent development.”

The second talk of the afternoon was given by Don Nicola Bux, the well-known author and professor of the Bari Theological Institute, on the Sacrament of Holy Orders in the Pontificale Romanum. Beginning with a lengthy and detailed technical explanation of the origins of the Pontifical as a liturgical book, he pointed out the particular emphasis which the ordination rites of both priest and bishop lay on the celebrant of Mass as the mediator between God and Man. This is a especially necessary role in a world in which so many people live as if God does not exist. In reference to the excessive optimism about the world characteristic of many modern theologians, Don Bux asserted that the role of the priest is to “remove space from the profane. Those who believe that ‘the profane’ does not exist are really saying that the Second Coming of Christ has already happened.” Such a notion is based on a false doctrine of the Incarnation, contrary to the teachings of the Church and the insistence of the ordination rites themselves that the teaching of the priest must be “pure, sound and true.”

These rites also underline in a particular way necessity of both purity and humility in the person of the sacred ministers; the Byzantine tradition places an image of St. John the Baptist on one of the doors of the iconostasis as the model of both of these virtues. It is important to note how these two virtues go hand in hand; and with characteristic frankness, the author of the recent book “How to Go to Mass without Losing the Faith” asserted (to tremendous applause) that the scandal of clerical sexual abuse goes hand in hand with abuses of the liturgy.

The third paper on “The Apostolic and Patristic Origins of the Tridentine Mass” was the work of Sister Maria Francesca dell’Immacolata, a cloistered nun of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate; the paper was read at the conference by a non-cloistered member of her order. The title of the paper is self-explanatory; it began with the well-known truths that "Tridentine" is something of a misnomer for what is now called the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, and that a very considerable portion of it, especially in the Rite of Mass, predates the Council of Trent by many centuries. If this point should seem too well established to merit repetition, a few years ago I read an article that claimed, in absolute seriousness, that Pope Clement VIII nullified the reform of St. Pius V by the minor editorial changes and rubrical adjustments made to the Missal in 1604, and that the statement that ‘the Tridentine Rite was never abolished’ is therefore intrinsically false.

The last talk of the day was given by Professor Roberto de’ Mattei on the use of Latin as the liturgical language of the Church. The starting point of this talk was another talk given at the Angelicum, almost 50 years earlier, by Fr. Marie-Dominique Chenu. Fr. Chenu asserted that the upcoming abolition of the Latin language from the daily life of the Church would be its final liberation from the baleful influence of Constantine and the Roman Empire. Prof. de’ Mattei, by contrast, gave a fascinating explanation of the way Latin has served the Church over the centuries as a vehicle not only of a common liturgy, but also of a common Christian culture. This common culture transcends the borders of the Roman Empire, bringing the faith to places that were never under Rome’s dominion, such as Ireland and most of modern Germany, providing a useful antidote to the various forms of nationalism, whether religious or political, that have done so much harm to the Church. The Professor cited the words of Blessed John XXIII in this regard, in the nearly-forgotten encyclical Veterum Sapientia, that the Church needs a language that is “not national, but universal, sacred, not ordinary..., with one meaning that does not change over time, in order to pass on the same teaching: one, for her governance, and sacred, for her rites.”

Prof de’ Mattei’s talk was interrupted by the arrival of Dario Cardinal Castrillón-Hoyos, who received a standing ovation. When the Professor had finished, the Cardinal then led us to the main church of the Angelicum, and celebrated Benediction of the Most Holy Sacrament; the excellent music was again provided by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. During the Benediction, the Te Deum was sung in Thanksgiving not only for the success of the conference, but for the pastoral care of the Holy Father in restoring the traditional rite to its place of due honor in the Church.

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