Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Motu proprio heard 'round the world

Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI issued his motu proprio, Summorum pontificum, which lifted the major restrictions, while denying that the restrictions ever existed, on the Mass of John XXIII (1962). If you have Latin, you can read the whole thing here. If you don't, then you'll have to make do either with this translation or the Holy Father's cover letter. To sum up, what Benedict has done - more or less - is revert to the Vatican position (first held under John Paul II) that the 1962 liturgy was never banned, and that the 1975 Missale Romanum is still "the" Forma ordinaria. In this regard, Benedict isn't saying anything new. Benedict has, however, said that priests may privately celebrate Mass according to the 1962 books, that people who want to be admitted to these Masses should be, and - if there are enough people in a parish who want such a Mass - the priest really should give it to them. He also said that, if the parish priest won't give the 1962 Mass to a group who wants it, then they should complain to the local bishop - who should help them.

Here's Benedict's major permission (in Latin):
Proinde Missae Sacrificium, iuxta editionem typicam Missalis Romani a B. Ioanne XXIII anno 1962 promulgatam et numquam abrogatam, uti formam extraordinariam Liturgiae Ecclesiae, celebrare licet.
Fine. Wonderful. This is, I suppose, as close to the universal indult, for which conservative and traditionalist Catholics have yearned as Benedict is going to get. It was a bit of a cop-out to say, "Well, uh, we never banned it, so it's OK to say it." Anyone who has followed the story of the traditional liturgy knows how little support it has received from the Church hierarchy. Still, Benedict has pretty well settled the matter.

My thought on this is simply this: Benedict is making one last ditch effort to get Lefebvre's Society of Saint Pius X back in the fold. That break, which happened when he was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF; Cardinal Levada's job now) was a major and fairly traumatic event. To 99.9996% of Catholics, it's a non-issue, but don't think the hierarchy hasn't given some thought to the problem. Most Catholics interested in the 1962 books are pretty well formed up and pretty well served. This seems like an attempt to get the remaining traditionalists served and get the reasonable schismatics back in line, especially since they have valid - but not licit - apostolic succession, a problem for a lot of the ultra-conservative schismatic sects.

Not musically related, but still interesting and important in its own way.

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