Monday, December 17, 2007

Summorum Pontificum revisited

Fr. James Martin over on one of the new America blogs, In All Things, discusses some statements made recently by Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, concerning the Holy Father's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.

Quoting a Catholic News Agency report of some remarks made by Archbishop Ranjith this past fall, which were apparently in response to the archbishop of Westminster's, England, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, commentary on the motu proprio, Fr. Martin relays these comments by Archbishop Ranjith: ""You know that there have been, by some dioceses, even interpretative documents which inexplainably [sic] intend to limit the Pope's motu proprio. These actions mask behind them, on one hand, prejudices of an ideological kind and, on the other, pride, one of the gravest sins. I repeat: I invite all to obey the Pope."

Like Father Martin I tend to think that it is rather a lack of interest on the part of the faithful , at least here in the U.S., that keeps there from being very many Latin masses in the dioceses of this country. It also bears noting that Mass according to the 1962 missal remains an extraordinary form. Hence, according the motu, a pastor cannot substitute one of the regular masses in his parish for a Latin mass. More importantly, given the lack of demand for the old form in most places, it hardly seems that what Archbishop Ranjith sees as the widespread failure to celebrate the Mass according to the old rite (i.e., the rite that those promulgated after the Second Vatican Council replaced) "will lead to discord in the Church". I do not think that the re-introduction of the 1962 missal is the formula either for increasing Mass attendance or attracting more vocations to the priesthood. "We do not have the time to waste on this," the archbishop continues. If we delay, he insists, "we behave like emperor Nero, fiddling on his violin while Rome was burning. The churches are emptying, there are no vocations, the seminaries are empty."

I may be much mistaken, but it seems that what is being suggested by way of implication in these remarks goes beyond the rather modest limits of the motu. What about the parishes and even whole dioceses in which there is virtually no desire for a return to the old rite? Should a pastor or bishop seek to impose this extraordinary form on the people? On that score I agree with Archbishop Ranjith that the Holy Father must be obeyed, that the motu must be implemented and followed. Faithful following means neither seeking to abrogate nor undermine the motu. It also means not overstepping what is directed. What is directed is allowing the celebration of the Mass according to the 1962 missal by any priest who wishes to do so, but that such celebrations are extraordinary and cannot replace Masses according to the so-called missal of Paul VI, which remains normative. The same is also true for the other sacramental rites of the Church according to the motu.

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