Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Old Rite put in its place

So runs the title of this week's editorial of The Tablet.

The editorial is a reflection on a foreword, written by Archbishop Nichols, to a booklet that will be given to priests taking part in the 24-28 August conference at All Saints Pastoral Centre, London Colney. I do not have the article to hand but can comment on the Tablet's editorial without bringing in personal likes and dislikes, but simply applying the Church's law.

The editor begins:
One of Pope Benedict XVI’s most controversial initiatives has been his promotion of the Tridentine Rite of Mass as an alternative to the revised rite that reflects the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

Many things that the Church and her pastors direct are controversial simply by being controverted such as the teaching on artificial birth control contained in Pope Paul VI's encyclicalHumanae Vitae and Vatican II's Gaudium et spes. The fact of being controverted does not, however, make them any less legitimate.

The Tablet continues:
His message is unambiguous, and may not please some of those hoping to attend the conference. First, he has insisted that the training conference is officially sponsored by the Diocese of Westminster, “in conjunction with the Latin Mass Society”, thereby keeping it under his control. In church teaching and canon law, he states, bishops are responsible for the oversight of the liturgy. Many feel a bishop’s role in these matters has been undermined by Pope Benedict’s motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum”, which appears to allow priests to opt for the Tridentine Rite regardless of the attitude of local bishops.

Of course, the bishop is the moderator of the liturgy in his diocese, but always in accordance with the universal law of the Church. Whatever people feel, the fact is that Summorum Pontificum does indeed allow priests to celebrate the extraordinary form (which The Tablet insists on calling "the Tridentine Rite") without the permission of the bishop:
Art. 2: In Masses celebrated without the people, each Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or regular, may use the Roman Missal published by Bl. Pope John XXIII in 1962, or the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970, and may do so on any day with the exception of the Easter Triduum. For such celebrations, with either one Missal or the other, the priest has no need for permission from the Apostolic See or from his Ordinary.

The Tablet:
Archbishop Nichols gives no shred of encouragement to those who want the Tridentine Rite to replace the newer version. Conference participants “will wholeheartedly celebrate the Mass in each of these forms”, he instructs them bluntly, adding: “The view that the ordinary form of the Mass, in itself, is in some way deficient finds no place here.” People who hold that view are “inexorably distancing themselves from the Church”, he says. There is no scope, in other words, for “Tridentine Rite” parishes that set themselves up in the spirit of being “more Catholic than thou”.

Well, I hope it works both ways, that those who refuse to accept the extraordinary form do not consider themselves more catholic than those who prefer the extraordinary form. I would hope that The Tablet, which prides itself on dissent from - or at least controverting upon - much of the Church's official teachings will allow thinking catholics the space to discuss the relative merits of one form of the Mass over the other. After all, the whole point of the provisions of Pope John Paul II's Motu proprio Ecclesia Dei and Pope Benedict's Summorum Pontificum was to respond to the legitimate aspirations of those who remained attached to the older usage. In the former document, Pope John Paul had already written:
(M)oreover, respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See for the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962.

Furthermore, Summorum Pontificum allows for the erection of personal parishes and chaplaincies exclusively dedicated to the provision of the extraordinary form:
The ordinary of a particular place, if he feels it appropriate, may erect a personal parish in accordance with can. 518 for celebrations following the ancient form of the Roman rite, or appoint a chaplain, while observing all the norms of law.

My experience of the conference in Merton last year was that most, if not all, of the priests attending were regular parish priests whose daily celebration of the Mass was and would remain in the ordinary form. They would continue to celebrate it "wholeheartedly" even if with the benefit of the "mutual enrichment" envisioned by Pope Benedict in Summorum Pontificum. Also, attendees were provided with the opportunity to celebrate Mass daily in the ordinary or extraordinary form according to their preference, or indeed to concelebrate (in the ordinary form, naturally). So, in fact, both forms of the Mass were being celebrated and the form one celebrated in was not, in my experience, a cause of division or being thought of by the others as being more or less catholic.

The Tablet:
Recognising the threat of such moves, Archbishop Nichols is seeking to nip a potential schism in the bud.

Schism is a very technical word and The Tablet does its readers a great disservice in using it so imprecisely, just as it uses the term "Tridentine Rite" instead of "extraordinary form". There is no potential schism. All those attending the conference are faithful catholic priests.
His firm leadership in Westminster is one that other bishops in England and Wales – and elsewhere – will welcome. The Catholic Church does not need its own version of “culture wars”, and in his message the archbishop in effect declares a priest’s personal tastes or preferences to be irrelevant.

There would be no "wars" if all accepted peaceably the directives of the Holy Father in these matters. The priest now has a right to celebrate the extraordinary form privately whenever he wishes. Any decision to do so is bound to made on the basis of his preferences. The Tablet wants to deny priests their right in this matter.

The Tablet:
Furthermore the distinctive feature of the Tridentine Rite, and the single most pressing reason why the bishops at Vatican II wanted it reformed, was the absence of any role for the laity. They were little more than spectators of what the celebrant was doing at the altar; in practice this meant many of them concentrated on their own private devotions.

We have here a very distorted understanding by The Tablet of active participation. The faithful for whom I celebrate the extraordinary form consider themselves to be very much involved, being drawn into the mysteries they celebrate and praying in union with the priest at the altar. They should not be bullied into making responses, shaking hands etc. if they do not wish to.
Archbishop Nichols insists it is an “established principle of good liturgy” to encourage the active participation of all those taking part in the Mass, a principle needing “careful consideration and application by every celebrant”.

This can be done by instructing the faithful - priests and laity - on the true nature of the Mass so that they have a greater understanding of what is being celebrated and accomplished. In my celebrations of the extraordinary form, I have indeed exercised very "careful consideration and application" so that I may celebrate the Mass with faithfulness to the rubrics and tradition so that the people do not get Father John's Mass but the Mass of the Church.

The Tablet now goes on to make a giant deductive leap:
Implicit in this directive is the rejection of any discrimination against girls and women among those who assist at Mass, such as altar servers, readers and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. That some Tridentinist priests have banished females from the sanctuary or lectern in the name of authenticity has more than a whiff of misogyny.

How can The Tablet deduce this conclusion from the Archbishop's words? The Tablet fails to remind its readers that Vatican II directed that the stable ministries of acolytate and lectorate be restored but that the Bishops have not restored these ministries. Why? Because they are reserved to men. So there is a selective application of the directives of the Council. The council and, indeed, the Code of Canon Law, states that other lay faithful - of either sex - may, in the absence of instituted ministers, exercise these roles. But their role is supplementary, not essential. As for extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, these are not necessary in any Mass. They are permitted if, in the opinion of the parish priest, the distribution of Communion would take too long, but they are not required. And in the extraordinary form, Communion is only given under one kind (although that could be reformed).

What is a "Tridentinist" priest anyway?
Thus has Archbishop Nichols neatly answered virtually every objection to the motu proprio,...

Was that the Archbishop's intention, to "neatly answer virtually every objection to the motu proprio"? Or to give practical guidelines for its implementation.
... and the Tridentine Rite can henceforth take its proper – and necessarily marginal – place in the life of the Catholic Church.

Let the people - not The Tablet - decide whether the extraordinary form (again styled "Tridentine Rite" by The Tablet") will be marginal, as Pope Benedict has given them the right to.
Indeed, he has made it accessible to those who are fully committed to Vatican II.

Just as the ordinary form Mass is accessible to those who are fully committed to Vatican II, including its teaching on artificial birth control (Gaudium et spes) and other issues one could raise such as the infallibility of the Pope and the need for religious submission of intellect and will to the ordinary magisterium of the Church.
This timely display of clear leadership from the new president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales bodes well.

I'm sure it does.


  1. I think yours is a good analysis of the Tablet article. I think the pope did missed covering one angle however: The pope's statement seems to say that for the Easter Triduum, one can only use the Novus Ordo form. [Or am I reading that wrong?] If it was meant to be a blanket prohibition, he seems to have not allowed for priestly orders who are dedicated solely to the EF form of the Mass to do it according to the 62 missal. SHould he have not added a clause in there to cover that? [That's bothered me for a while, it seems to have been written without a thought to bishops trying to undermine the EF.]

    #2 Out of curiousity, I've always considered a "private mass" for all practical purposes to be one that is not published, or a regularly scheduled Mass. Itsn't it the case that in some sense the church, universal is considered present? For instance even if only the priest and ONE server are present (and no one else) the priest would still say in the Confiteor "..omnibus Sanctis, et vobis, fratres..." [...all the saints, and you, brethren] the "you" being plural. Ditto if the priest is alone in some prison saying Mass he is still bound to make the response "Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus meis ad laudem ... [instead of tuis]" [i.e. May the Lord accept the sacrifice of my hands...] Does he not say that in place of the laity (or cleric) saying it on their behalf?

    As regards the instituted acolytes/readers. You have to admit the whole concept is a tad odd. I can see why you'd do away with the minor "orders" as I'd be hard pressed to see a porter as someone having received a "sacrament" -- so "orders" was always an awkward term. Still, AFAIK, there are such "animals" as instituted acoyltes and readers, but it's my understanding that one doesn't normally see them outside of a parish setting, unless a seminarian (who has been instituted) is in residence in a parish. I wouldn't, frankly, see much point to having instuted readers/acoyltes in a parish setting.

    I think where this gets potentially awkward is in a high Mass situation. I'm not so much worried if there's a priest and the two others are at least deacons. But what do you do in a parish setting for that "straw subdeacon?"

    And personally, I think if the tablet is going to go around making blanket statements that the EF is "marginal" -- perhaps they should go play the lottery if they are that sure of themselves.

    For sure there are things I like and dislike about both forms of the Mass - but the Tablet is being awfully snippy!

    [I hope you don't mind my leaving this link to a post I did re: how I feel now about the EF form and the OF form. Some of your readers might find it amusing, disagree strongly, or agree!]

  2. oops, sorry, meant to say that I don't think ones sees instituted acolytes/readers outside of a seminary setting.

  3. Easter Triduum: liturgical law forbids the celebration of the Mass 'without the people' in either form, ordinary or extraordinary. There is therefore no undue limitation placed on the use of the ef.

    Yes, a 'private' Mass is one that, broadly speaking, is not published. But this can be interpreted broadly. For example, in many parishes priests do not publish a Mass time on their day off. I see no reason why a priest can't inform parishioners that, on his day off, he will offer the Mass in the ef and if they'd like to attend they're very welcome. This is also foreseen in Summorum Pontificum.

    As for instituted acolytes and lectors, it is not at all odd. The tradition of the Church is clearly in favour of male ministers. The use of non-instituted ministers, male or female, is permitted to supply for the lack of instituted ministers. In practice, it is true that instituted ministers are now generally only found in a seminary setting or in religious orders. Which means that Vatican II's desire that the stable ministries be restored has been neglected and they remain, in practice, transient ministries for those on the road to ordination.

    In the ef, I believe it is permissible for one who is not a subdeacon to carry out the office of subdeacon, but I would defer to experts on this.

  4. Father, Fortescue and O'Connell state that for reasons of ''grave necessity,'' any tonsured cleric can perform the role of Subdeacon, provided that he does not wear the Maniple, and he omits some of the ceremonies that normally the Subdeacon would do (such as ministering to the Chalice). The details are rather complex and obscure though.

    I once served a High Mass where the Subdeacon was provided by a layman - one that was tonsured, but left Seminary. I can't say that I agreed with that.

  5. Thank you, Patricius. I suppose the thing then is that if you can't have a subdeacon, you can't have Solemn High Mass but would have to make do with a Sung Mass. Is there no possibility of having Mass with a deacon without subdeacon? In the old days, with lots of clerics available, such a scenario was not common.

  6. Father, no I'm afraid it is not possible to have a High Mass with only the Celebrant and Deacon, but no Subdeacon - a ruling from the Sacred Congregation of Rites states so.

    Yes indeed, I expect in the old days such a scenario was not commonplace at all, especially in Rome. Naturally, in England during pre-Conciliar days, the so-called ''Missa Cantata'' (really a Low Mass) was the norm. If there were another cleric in choir, he could (if required) chant the Epistle, or the Master of Ceremonies could perform this function, were he a tonsured cleric.

    Great to see you're back in blogdom Father! Shame about those nasty wretched little Tabletists though...

  7. Now, however, the SC of Rites is the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments. Whilst previous legislation holds as long as it is not revised by subsequent legislation, now that Ecclesia Dei is part of the CDF, liturgical questions concerning the EF might well come under the CDWS. I wonder if the CDWS might legislate some revisions in this matter so that a deacon alone may assist the priest. Whatever they do I am sure will be done with great prudence.

  8. The significance of the subtle insertion, by His Grace, of the two-worded clause "in itself" seems to be utterly lost on The Tablet's editorial.

    The Archbishop did not say: "The view that the ordinary form of the Mass is in some way deficient has no place here."

    However, he did say: "The view that the ordinary form of the Mass, in itself, is in some way deficient has no place here."

    +Vincent's use of "in itself" is most telling.

  9. Father, these are very interesting questions of Canon Law, for while previous Law can be superseded, nevertheless previous Law still retains its value. In fact, Canon 21 of the 1983 code states: ''In doubt, the revocation of a previous law is not presumed; rather, later laws are to be related to earlier ones and, as far as possible, harmonised with them.'' It is, of course, a matter of great liturgical significance that Ecclesia Dei has been brought into the CDF - a way of saying ''these are doctrinal matters now, not up for dispute.''

    As regards revising the Rite of High Mass to accomodate the absence of a Subdeacon, I would have thought that that constituted undue tampering with the Rites and would create more problems than solve any, but that is just my opinion.

  10. Patricius, I agree with you that the inclusion of ED within the CDF is also indicative that liturgy and docrine are considered inextricably linked. But I am worried that your comment implies a rejection of some of the reforms mandated by the Second Vatican Council, e.g. the restoration of the stable ministries, the restoration of the permanent diaconate and the abolition of the sub-diaconate.

    If the permanent diaconate has been restored, why can a deacon not perform his duties at the altar for the lack of sub-deacon whose 'orders' are not considered of divine institution? Is the extraordinary form that untouchable?

    I might write about some related issues when I have time.

  11. Perhaps we should be asking, "Qui bono?" to some of the liturgical reforms of the council? Are they untouchable too that no one can pass constructive criticism on them too?

    It's the elephant in the room that no one is willing to admit. And it would seem that Archbishop Nichols is one of those people who cannot bring himself to admit that all is not well with the ordinary form. Only after 40 years are we talking about a "reform of the reform".

    What was it that Our Lord said about building your house on sand?

  12. Hestor

    Of course we can debate/constructively criticise the liturgical reforms made following the Second Vatican Council (which I distinguish from the reforms requested/suggested by the Fathers of the said Council). But my comment referred not to liturgical reforms but to institutional reforms (viz. the levels of Sacred Orders) which have consequences liturgically. I cannot see why the ef can't be adapted to permit a deacon to exercise his office whether at low, Sung or High Mass without a subdeacon.

  13. Dear Father Boyle,

    There was a discussion about whether a layman might act as sub-deacon at a Solemn High Mass on Father Zuldorf's website some time ago:
    He starts the discussion by saying:

    "Keep in mind that Paul VI’s Ministeria quaedam says that the instituted acolyte assumes the liturgical roles of the subdeacon and that the 1983 Code of Canon Law says that instituted acolytes can be substituted by others who are not so instituted."

    (or Google "Subdeacon" and "layman" - it should come up as the first offering..

    I have only ever seen it done once - it was a Corpus Christi Maiden Lane this year for Palm Sunday. The layman who acted as sub-deacon was a very experienced altar-server.

    I also recall seeing a photo of the MC of the LMS Mr Gordon Dimon acting as Sub-Deacon as well.
    I think it is amongst Mr Vernon Quaintance's photos on Catholic Tradition.

    I think when a layman takes the role he may not wear the maniple.

    In caritate Xp.,

    Bryan Dunne


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