#2 Concrete Act for the Unity of the Church: Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum

“Now with the mind of Christ set us on fire,
that unity may be our great desire…”
(John Raphael Peacey)

Lots has been said and written about the Moto Proprio Summorum Pontificum (suitably in Latin only on the Vatican website, but see this English Translation) to this point. I am quite happy with it–as if that matters in the scheme of things–and there is nothing about the provisions of the MP itself which concern me–which perhaps matters even less.

What I really like is the Explanatory Letter which Pope Benedict personally wrote to go along with it. Papa Benny wears his heart on his shirt-sleeve in this letter. You know that what you are hearing is absolutely what the Pope himself has thought on the matter for quite some time. Almost as if he were saying (to paraphrase Trollope’s Mrs Proudie) “Joseph Ratzinger thinks and I agree”…

Many people who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican Council, and were faithful to the Pope and the Bishops, nonetheless also desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them. This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear. I am speaking from experience, since I too lived through that period with all its hopes and its confusion. And I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.

Moreover, the Holy Father shows great awareness of the forces that have been mustered against this move to derestrict the use of the Roman rite according to the 1962 Missal. I am sure that he has had no shortage of people over the last six months more than willing to tell him exactly what was wrong with the idea. (The opposition this papal brainwave met can really only be compared to the opposition Blessed John XXIII himself experienced from the curia when he suggested that it might be a good idea to hold an ecumenical council…) But he will not let this move be brushed aside as simply trying to please some aging die-hards who have never accepted the changes that followed the council forty years ago. He is aware that

in the meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.

Of course, he has the SSPX in view. Of the Church’s relationship with them he quotes St Paul who said:

“Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return … widen your hearts also!” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13). Paul was certainly speaking in another context, but his exhortation can and must touch us too, precisely on this subject. Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.

On the theme of unity, it is hardly surprising that the Bishop of Rome should emphasise that, despite this new derestriction of an older form of the Roman rite,

it is not appropriate to speak of these two versions of the Roman Missal as if they were “two Rites”. Rather, it is a matter of a twofold use of one and the same rite.

There is one Roman rite for the one Roman Church. I think this means that in many ways the current situation–in which we have an “ordinary form” of the rite (formerly known as the “novus ordo”) and an “extraordinary form” (formerly known as the “Tridentine”)–is itself transitional. As Peregrinus has pointed out in the comments section of the blog below on the Good Friday prayers, is it inconceivable that there will not be further editions of the “extraordinary form”, especially as the Motu Proprio and accompanying letter have indicated that there will be modifications (eg. “new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal” [Letter], vernacular lectionaries may be used [Art 6]). I find it most intriguing that the Holy Father should believe that

the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching.

To me this undeniably indicates that a future organic growing together is envisaged. What this might entail in the long run, however, is anyone’s guess. It is no mystery, however, what outcome the Holy Father would desire. The result of this “mutual enrichment” would be that

The celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of Paul VI will be able to demonstrate, more powerfully than has been the case hitherto, the sacrality which attracts many people to the former usage. The most sure guarantee that the Missal of Paul VI can unite parish communities and be loved by them consists in its being celebrated with great reverence in harmony with the liturgical directives. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this Missal.

You see again that, when it comes to our Holy Father, unity IS his “great desire”–especially at the altar of God.

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4 Responses to #2 Concrete Act for the Unity of the Church: Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum

  1. Joshua Martin says:

    David, good to see you back online, and edified that you chose to go offline for the sterling reason of being with your wife and family!

    I’ve been quite upset, in a way contrary to most, by all the hoo-ha about the prayer respecting conversion of the Jews as used in the 1962 Missal on Good Friday – because, well, isn’t it in fact the case that we ought pray for them, and all non-Christians, to come to know Jesus Christ? Anyone would think that Nostra AEtate encouraged indifferentism, universalism, or the like!

    It is as if too many in the Church seem to have forgotten or become embarrassed by the Great Commission: the Faith is meant for all, and first of all for the Jews, to whom Our Lord came first. After all, if He’s not the Messiah and Saviour of Israel, He’s no one’s Saviour. Else, we fall into the trap of thinking inter-faith dialogue replaces missionary zeal; it ought not, but often does.

    It also boggles me that so many object to the actual prayer itself, which is simply using the language of St Paul in 2 Corinthians (how typical for Catholics not to know their Bible). Consider the prayer – an invitation to pray, and a collect following:

    “Let us pray also for the Jews: that our God and Lord would remove the veil from their hearts: that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ. Almighty and everlasting God, who drivest not away from Thy mercy even [etiam] the Jews: hear our prayers which we offer for the blindness of that people: that acknowledging the light of Thy truty, which is Christ, they may be rescued from their darkness.”

    All who know not Christ. the Light and Truth, are ipso facto in darkness, according to the New Testament; the reference to blindness seems to allude to a passage in St John (chapter 8?). Everyone needs whatever cloaks and obscures the Light of Christ, to be removed, that our unveiled hearts may be enlightened by His Truth. I really should say this prayer for myself – as well as for Jews, and for all men.

    Frankly, that word “etiam” might be better left out, since presumably God has a soft spot for the people he first chose for himself, but otherwise, what’s wrong with it – I mean, in doctrinal terms, as opposed to, “Oops, it is way too unambiguous for us suave moderns”?

    If I were a Jew, I would be put off this prayer, but what right would I have to tell Christians what to pray for? I don’t go telling persons of other faiths how to say their prayers, and don’t expect non-Christians to presume to tell me how to say mine.

    Next we’ll have the idol-worshippers complaining about what the relevant prayer says about them! ;-)

    This is the strength of the 1962 Missal, with its treasury of orations going back as many as 1500 years: the prayers aren’t weak watered-down effusions, they tell it straight.

  2. Schütz says:

    I intend to blog on this matter a little more in the near future–having considered carefully all that was said in the comments of the last blog. Yes, I think the word “etiam” is perhaps not choice and could, like “perfidus” be removed. But there is the much larger issue (a bit of a bleeding and unresolved wound in our soteriology) about the relationship of the Jews to the New (or as some would have it, the “second”) Covenant. There was a lot written about this a few years back, by none less than Avery Dulles, even, and I will put up the links when I blog on the subject. For the time being, I stand by what I said earlier–the prayer will hardly ever be used because of the fact that Good Friday will have only one afternoon liturgy, and that will almost definitely be the Ordinary Form.

  3. Joshua says:


    Thanks for your reply. As I mainly attend the old rite, as provided by the Latin Mass Chaplain of the Archdiocese of Perth, (oops, should be ‘use’ now acc. to Papa Benny), I can assure you that the Triduum I attended was 1962 with “that prayer”; we sang the chants, heard the Passion, prayed the sollemn prayers, went barefoot to kiss the Crucifix, and received our Lord.

    Referring to Good Friday, I thought that the rending of the Temple Veil at Christ’s Sacrificial Death signified the end of the old and the beginning of the new covenant, didn’t it? A friend gave me the reference, I forget the source, that 40% of the Jews of the Diaspora were converted in the early centuries, and that it is often forgotten that the Early Church was not wholly Gentile, but contained many who had consummated their Jewish heritage by coming to its fulness in Christ (for a somewhat later example, try St Romanos the Melodist, deacon and far-famed ecclesiastical hymnographer); the many mentions in Acts of Jewish conversions, and of animosities, reflects what went on for centuries, and still does.

    BTW, many have misread the MP – it rightly forbids private Masses during the Triduum (as they always have been), but wherever a need exists, and is answered by provision of an arrangement of a special 1962-only parish or the like, then the Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil Liturgies can be done in the 1962 version. This occurs in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, etc. already.

    Further these Masses are attended by lots of young people, such as myself, who thankfully don’t have the baggage of their elders, you know, warm fuzzies about what they think Vatican II was about (few have ever read the documents – I have), and angry reactions to Latin or even the sight of a cold thurible. Instead, you get much more knowledge, understanding, and attention to the holy mysteries, and much more sense of the sacred, than in a typical Mass.

    Having had the grace to worship in parishes with reverent priests nearly all my life, and yet finding the Traditional Mass so much more uplifting than my earlier experiences, I can only shudder to think how poor a diet is available to parishioners in the average Australian parish…

    The Holy Father wants a cross-fertilization between the two forms of our Rite, and in my humble opinion it is the ordinary form that stands in crying need of the beauty and doctrinal clarity of the extraordinary form. A real use of Latin, regularly; a worthy translation (not far off now!); the beauty of holiness: gifts from the old to the new.

    From suburban banality and mediocrity in the sacred liturgy,

    Good Lord, deliver us.

  4. Schütz says:

    I am aware that parishes especially dedicated to the “extraordinary form” of the rite (as we now must call it) will use the Good Friday liturgy, but even these will be fairly few in number–perhaps one in each diocese.

    Regarding the relationship between Christians and Jews, I am taking this up in a series of blogs on the matter. See my blog above “Christianity: Judaism MkIIB?”

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