With the release of the Instruction Universae ecclesiae in Rome at Noon, there is plenty to talk about at 1PM pranzo and yet there really isn’t. The instruction, issued by the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” is mostly a series of points reaffirming what was stated in Summorum pontificum (SP) four years ago. And insofar as it reaffirms it also clarifies and brings to light what was already the practice within dioceses and among extraordinary form (EF) worshipers.
The first seven paragraphs give a history of how the 1962 Missale Romanum existed in the Church from the Second Vatican Council to today. Obviously the major events occurred in 1984, 1988, and 2007 with the issuance of an indult by Blessed John Paul II and then the widening of that same indult in 1988 followed by the significant development under Pope Benedict XVI whereby individual indults are no longer needed because the EF coexists alongside the ordinary form (OF) as one of two usages of the same Roman rite, though still an exception to the ordinary usage.
Paragraph 7 has an interesting line that touches upon the theological issue wrestled with by many. It says, “Such norms were needed particularly on account of the fact that, when the new Missal had been introduced under Pope Paul VI, it had not seemed necessary to issue guidelines regulating the use of the 1962 Liturgy.” It didn’t seem necessary because the intent was to reform the liturgy, issue a new missal and for it to be given to the People of God for the salvation of their souls. In Quo primum of St. Pius V and in Missale romanum of Paul VI the language employed implies that from henceforth only the newly issued missal is to be used. However, Pope Benedict XVI – with the same papal authority as his predecessors – states, “what was sacred for prior generations, remains sacred and great for us as well, and cannot be suddenly prohibited altogether or even judged harmful”. Again, this is a theological point of contention that touches upon the nature of reform, the nature of reception by the People of God, the topic of papal authority, and the natural relationship and tension inherent in universal and local liturgical custom, etc., all of which are for theologians and liturgists to wrestle with and seek clarity.
But the very next line continues, “By reason of the increase in the number of those asking to be able to use the forma extraordinaria, it has become necessary to provide certain norms in this area.” And so the rationale for the 1984, 1988, and especially the 2007 decree SM and this current instruction is pastoral in nature – to meet the needs of the growing numbers. Incidentally, this implies that those who wish to celebrate the EF are not just those who were alive pre-1962. The phenomenon is much broader than that.
Paragraph 8 provides rationale for the issuance of SP. First, the 1962 missal and its rites constitute “a precious treasure to be preserved”. Second, the laity have requested its use and so it is “generously granted for the good” of their souls. And lastly, it promotes reconciliation. Remember that the 1984 and 1988 documents issued by Blessed John Paul II were initially issued as a pastoral response to the threat of a fractioning from those who rejected the reforms stemming from the Second Vatican Council, but ultimately the rejections dealt with underpinning theological principles, not ritual.
Looking at the over 100 comments on this blog when Universae ecclesiae was announced, as well as the comments posted on other blogs, one might wonder if the Holy Father’s desire for reconciliation is shared by all and will become a reality.
Paragraphs 9 – 11 describe the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” and its authority.
A universal council once decreed that when confirming, bishops are to first dismount from their horses. As a former liturgy professor of mine would remind us, it was decreed because you just know there were bishops not dismounting but confirming as they rode through the villages. We see a lot of the same principle at work here in this instruction.
Paragraph 14 kindly reminds bishops that they are to “ensure respect” for the EF. This line and others were written because ensuring respect was, for perhaps either strong or weak reasons, not always seen through.
As soon as SP was released questions abounded as to what constitutes a “stable community”. Two persons? Three? Ten? Paragraph 15 gives the answer, “some people”. An overarching principal of SP and this instruction is that pastoral charity is to prevail and one is to err on the side of generosity. Paragraph 17 says as much.
Paragraphs 16 and 18 are a call to show hospitality to visiting priests and/or groups who request the EF.
Prudently the instruction includes paragraph 19 in which we are reminded that the forma ordinaria is both the ordinary expression of the Roman rite and is a valid and legitimate expression of it. One can hope that such statements help to depress the whisperings that “my Mass is the real and valid Mass” or “my priest is holier than your priest”. Hope springs eternal.
Also when SP was released some bishops established “tests” whereby priests would be judged as capable of celebrating the EF, especially in regard to Latin proficiency. Critics of these tests were quick to point out that equivalent exams for Spanish are not everywhere given.
And so paragraph 20 describes a “qualified priest” as having 1) good standing and 2) a “basic knowledge” of Latin (pronounce and understand). Thirdly, if a priest arrives to celebrate the EF let generosity and hospitality prevail.
Training in the older usage should be made available to clergy and to seminarians. A requirement is not made but bishops are merely asked to see to this. Such training includes the Latin language and here the instruction isn’t merely reaffirming SP but is reaffirming Sacrosanctum concilium (36, 54, 101) and Optatam totius (13).
Some bishops were requiring priests to attain permission to celebrate the extraordinary form and for this reason paragraph 23 merely repeats SP which did away with the need for any particular indult for non-public celebrations of the EF.
Saints canonized after 1962 and some of the ordinary form prefaces “can and ought” to be used in the EF (para 25). This is a very concrete and strong step in the OF informing and enriching the EF. We eagerly await the promised upcoming provisions.
Article 6 of SP states that the EF can use lectionary editions “recognized by the Apostolic See”. This would be another instance of the OF enriching the EF. But paragraph 26 does not mention anything about editions but only language and so here perhaps the waters are muddied.
Paragraphs 27 – 32 touch upon topics (confirmation, 1983 Code, breviary) already established but are here reinforced.
Paragraph 33 makes clear that an EF Sacred Triduum can be celebrated even in parishes were the OF Sacred Triduum is celebrated. The rationale, as we’ve seen throughout, is for the “good of souls”.
As I stated above, no new ground is really broken by this instruction. SP already did that. Instead, this document reaffirms and clarifies the spirit of SP and the spoken hope that the EF will be respected and that the rights of its adherents be unhindered.
The effect SP has had on the Church should not be underestimated (nor overestimated, I suppose, by some). The theological and ritual tensions that would naturally arise with the coexistence of two forms of the one Roman rite will not dissipate because of this instruction. But we can hope that greater clarity of SP will be attained through this instruction so that as parishioners, bloggers, and usages ordinary and extraordinary coexist they may do so with mutual understanding and enrichment.