Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Of the ''supreme pontiffs''...

I heard earlier (through various channels) that it is the third anniversary of Summorum Pontificum. When I conceived this post, I had planned on simply putting a photo of Pope Benedict XVI up and saying something like: ''Nothing interesting happened three years ago today.'' But for those of you who are perhaps confused as to why I reject Summorum Pontificum - ''the'' Motu Proprio - here are a few reasons.

Summorum Pontificum, along with the liturgical books of 1962, Low Mass and Ultramontanism is listed in the side bar under the heading ''Bad Things.'' The reason they are bad things is because they are all antiliturgical in certain ways. The liturgical books of 1962 are clearly just as much the result of committee work as the New Rite - shunned by Traditionalists as a Protestant-inspired Ecumenical liturgy. Low Mass, as I constantly tire of saying, is a liturgical abuse. Ultramontanism, as I explained in the Summa Liturgica, is a monstrous abuse of Papal primacy and Ultramontane popes have not ceased to tamper with the Sacred Liturgy. Summorum Pontificum is the crown of it all though. It says nothing whatsoever about the Old Rite (except in a few passing references, such as to Pope Gregory, and the ''what was sacred and great'' malarkey in the accompanying letter to the Bishops), and moreover is indicative of the fundamentally false assumption that Popes have some authority over the Sacred Liturgy (and wasn't Pius XII puffed up with this arrogance - I sincerely hope that he is never canonized). Am I alone in asking: since when did you need the Pope's permission to celebrate Mass?!

While the whole point of Summorum Pontificum is ''numquam abrogatam'', ''no permission necessary'' etc, these are all stinking red herrings and spurious arguments. The 1962 liturgical books were (rightly) abrogated by Missale Romanum of Paul VI. By implication of the Pope saying ''you don't need permission'' he is in fact saying that you do need permission - and not from the local bishop, but from the Pope himself. This is yet another example of Papal centralization, so rife since the Council of Trent and to the detriment of the Church's life. Since the Catholic Church is full of legal positivists (no doubt one of the malefits - a term coined by Tolkien - of ''Canon Law''), I suppose it was seen as a necessary evil for the Pope to say: ''you need my say-so to celebrate Mass according to an imagined 'extraordinary form' of the Roman Rite'', but this does not negate the more serious questions, which are: does the Pope have this authority over the Sacred Liturgy in the first place, and if so, does not the Tradition of the Church sit uneasily upon the whims and arbitrary decisions of modern Popes? What is going to stop the next Pope, when the present Holy Father pops his ecclesiastical clogs, from reversing Summorum Pontificum? What if the next Pope is a Modernist, and he suddenly says: ''There is only one Roman Rite in the Catholic Church, and this is according to the Pauline liturgical books. Any deviants from this rule will be in a state of schism with the Church''? It will be interesting to be a fly on the wall in Traditionalist circles when this happens! There is no point in arguing that this is not possible - if Pius XII can promulgate Maxima Redemptionis and pervert the Tradition of the Church by his authority, then future Popes have the same authority to reverse, mutilate, create novelties at their whims also - that is until an Ecumenical Council draws up a sort of Magna Carta telling Popes what they can and can't do. Although I sometimes wonder how much the Catholic Church can convincingly conceal her mistakes under the blanket of the so-called ''hermeneutic of continuity''...

In the days before Summorum Pontificum Traditionalists (most notably the SSPX and similar pressure groups, either at variance canonically with Rome or uneasily in communion with Rome) argued for a return to the 1962 books because of immemorial custom, and they ceased not to quote Pius V's bull Quo Primum in support of this argument. While this too is a monstrous calumny, it seems a much worthier argument for Tradition than the Pope's permission. I was a Traditionalist in the days prior to Summorum Pontificum - I think precisely because Traditionalists were at variance with Rome. In fact, I even welcomed Summorum Pontificum with the words of the Psalm: A Domino factum est istud, et est mirabile in oculis meis! It was only after earnest study of the history of liturgical reform in the Catholic Church that I was completely put off it. Nowadays Traditionalists (and Catholics of the ''neo-Conservative'' kind - those who before SP were apologists of the New Rite, or even advocated a ''reform of the reform'', and welcomed SP because of the ''mutual enrichment'' nonsense) are the Pope's faithful servants, dutiful sons of the Church. They have in fact re-identified themselves - whereas before they were the enemies of Rome, Modernist Rome, now they are the defenders of Tradition on the side of Rome amidst a sea of Modernists, moral-relativists and people who read The Tablet (I know of several people, whom I respect deeply, who read The Tablet - I wonder how many opponents of this magazine actually read it?).

No, now I just see Summorum Pontificum as yet another example of Papal interference in the Liturgy. My hat goes off to Pope Benedict XVI! He has merely succeeded in playing into the hands of the Lefebvrists (whose liturgical ineptitude is beyond belief, and with whom I doubt he will ever be reconciled), and throwing another spanner into the works of the genuine renewal of the Sacred Liturgy. You can't possibly think that abuses in the New Rite can be remedied by making recourse to the liturgical books of 1962, which are themselves the result of a team of liturgical periti? While I doubt not that the Holy Father's intentions in promulgating (I hate that word...) Summorum Pontificum were good - to aid the renewal of the Sacred Liturgy, and to heal a schism in the Church - I just think that he was badly advised (especially for someone with experience of this kind), and that the future holds nothing but more problems, and problems of a more serious kind, for the Sacred Liturgy. Alas for the Sacred Liturgy...


  1. I am still waiting for a 'Traditionalist' to explain the claim in 'the' Motu proprio that the 1962 Missale 'was never juridically abrogated'.

    The 1962 MR underwent derogation due the changes in the Mass rite brought about by Sacram Liturgiam (1964), Inter Oecumenici (1964), the New Order of Mass (1965), Tres abhinc annos (1967), the introduction of three new EPs (1968) all before the introduction of the 'Novus Ordo Missae' in 1969 when the 1962 MR underwent abrogation. At no point after these changes was the 1962 rite allowed as an option, the changes were mandated by the authority of the pope. When the 'Heenan' indult appeared in 1971 it specified the 1967 rite (although this was generally ignored).

    As you rightly say Patricius the abrogatory clause at the end of Missale Romanum abrogated anything other than immemorial or centennial custom. A Missal just seven years old at the time clearly could not claim to have either the protection of immemorial or centennial custom.

    It is interesting to see that 95% of Traddieland have dropped the Quo primum and immemorial custom arguments in the last three years.

    If the claim of SP is true then clearly papal legislation is essentially a worthless thing and the decrees of 1964, 1965 and 1967 juridical nonsense. Thus we might reasonably ask what permanent value has anything emanating from Rome? Which laws are binding and which may be reversed at a future date?

    I have challenged two canon lawyers (both incidentally in the North of England), one a JCD the other a JCL - neither can give a coherent defence of SP in the light of liturgical history 1960 - 1970. Both resort to terms like 'old rite' and their arguments collapse when the the question which edition of the missal is asked. Not inspiring.

    On the bright side a very happy third wedding anniversary to the lovely and delightful Eva Longoria Parker - hopefully 07/07/07 can be remembered for something good and permanent after all.

  2. Archbishop Annibale Bugnini relates in his memoirs, that he wanted to obtain an explicit ruling to the effect that the Novus Ordo Missae of 1970 abrogated the old rite, so that the latter would be suppressed de jure. To apply for such a ruling to the Pontifical Commission for the Interpretation of Conciliar Documents, he needed permission from the Cardinal Secretary of State. On 10th June 1974 the Secretary of State refused to give the requested permission on the grounds that such an attempt would be seen as, "casting odium on the liturgical tradition."

    (A. Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975, Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1990, p. 300-301)

    The question remains as to what missal was Bugnini referring to when he wanted the "Old Rite" abolished: the 1962 Missal or something earlier?

  3. The truth runs on unassisted; lies are always "high maintenance".

  4. I couln't agree more with Moretben. I'll now turn my attentions to the subject of Prerogative Writs- one must make a living after all.

    If you would allow me (and forgive me for so doing) to proffer some unasked for and certainly unwelcome piece of advice- take some holidays, go into a silent retreat (not ignatian at any rate, what with its sensual method and means). Master your subject-but approach it from the vantage point of passionlessness, howsoever difficult that may be. All the best,Francis.

  5. Forgive the lateness of my reply to all your comments but I have had no internet connexion since yesterday.

    Rubricarius, many thanks for your contribution here. Naturally most people cranking the ''numquam abrogatam'' ratchet will know nothing whatsoever of the changes between 1960 and 1970.

    Moretben, like the Ministry of Truth?

    F.G.S.A, no your comments are always welcome. Naturally I need a holiday (my last one was five years ago), but where am I going to get the money for that? Since February I have scraped together £120, which is going to eventually rebuild my £4,000 in savings which I wrecklessly spent as a student.

    However, I say things as I see them, and if I get sick of everyone saying: Pope Benedict XVI has saved the Traditional Latin Mass, then I am going to say so.

  6. Too long a sacrifice
    Can make a stone of the heart.
    O when may it suffice?
    That is Heaven's part, our part
    To murmur name upon name,
    As a mother names her child...

    I agree with Francis, P. I think you need to step back and stop thinking about this for a bit. If you can't make a retreat for practical reasons (I know all about that!) just try and be still and quiet for a little while every day, and when the thoughts come, whatever they are, refer them to God and then dismiss them. Think about nothing, and don't theologise. Read nothing but the Gospels, and pray for your enemies.

  7. Sirian,

    I think there are at least two questions actually here. We of course need to realise that a 'new rite' did not suddenly drop from a clear blue sky to overnight replace an 'old rite.'

    1) If Paul VI's Missale Romanum didn't abrogate what preceded it what is one left with? The 1967 Ordo Missae, a revised ferial pericope cycle, option use of three new Eucharistic prayers, optional all vernacular celebration - plus of course further reduction in the Office and changes to other sacremental rites etc. The use of the plenary 1962 missal was not an option in 1969, unless one can demonstrate that the liturgical legislation from 1964 to 1968 was defective.

    Some 'Traddies' have even argued that Paul VI's was not validly promulgated because of certain disparities of text appearing in the AAS. This is rather amusing considering that the 'promulgation' of the 1962 missal doesn't even get a mention in the AAS.

    2) What about the argument concerning immemorial and centennial custom? The question of custom is an important one and, sadly, appears to have been the primary casualty of SP. Prior to SP there were many arguments that Quo primum and the Missal of Pius V had not been abrogated and the right existed to freely celebrate it. Competent canonists agreed that the abrogatory clause in Missale Romanum was not a formulary that would abrogate immemorial or centennial custom (c.f. the form used in Divino afflatu, in 1911). The argument concerning custom of course, generally, omitted the fact that Pius V's missal had been subject to derogation by the changes of, inter alia, Clement VIII, Urban VIII, Leo XIII, Benedict XV etc. However, leaving the question open as to what, specifically, immemorial custom applies to there to it is surely dangerous in the extreme to now drop these arguments or by a sort of sleight of hand apply them to the 'Extraordinary Form'. I have yet to see evidence that any Traditionalist argued that the 1962 edition of the Missale Romanum had not been abrogated prior to SP. Now Benedict XVI’s successor could simply abrogate the provisions of SP with Traddieland, having cast aside its sounder arguments based on custom, rather disenfranchised to say the least.