Friday, May 13, 2011

Vatican Instruction Universae Ecclesiae

This instruction, published today (feast of Our Lady of Fatima) by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei and dated on the memorial of Pope Saint Pius V (the Pope of the implementation of the Council of Trent), will already have been commented on elsewhere and I haven’t yet read those comments. Here is what I am picking up as I read through it.

The full text of the Instruction can be found here.
1. The Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum of the Sovereign Pontiff Benedict XVI given Motu Proprio on 7 July 2007, which came into effect on 14 September 2007, has made the richness of the Roman Liturgy more accessible to the Universal Church.
The re-introduction of the usus antiquior is therefore good for the WHOLE Church. There is a richness in the Roman Liturgy which is not accessible in the Mass of Paul VI alone.
3. The Holy Father, having recalled the concern of the Sovereign Pontiffs in caring for the Sacred Liturgy and in their recognition of liturgical books, reaffirms the traditional principle, recognised from time immemorial and necessary to be maintained into the future, that "each particular Church must be in accord with the universal Church not only regarding the doctrine of the faith and sacramental signs, but also as to the usages universally handed down by apostolic and unbroken tradition. These are to be maintained not only so that errors may be avoided, but also so that the faith may be passed on in its integrity, since the Church's rule of prayer (lex orandi) corresponds to her rule of belief (lex credendi)."
Liturgy is a vessel for the handing on of the faith from one generation to the next. We mess with it at our peril. According to St Vincent of Lerins (+445) the test of revealed and apostolic doctrine is “quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus” (that which has been held always, everywhere and by all).
6. The Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI and the last edition prepared under Pope John XXIII, are two forms of the Roman Liturgy, defined respectively as ordinaria and extraordinaria: they are two usages of the one Roman Rite, one alongside the other. Both are the expression of the same lex orandi of the Church. On account of its venerable and ancient use, the forma extraordinaria is to be maintained with appropriate honor.
The two forms of the Roman Rite are intimately connected with one another. Perhaps as beasts of burden yoked together both must pull in the same direction: towards God. But the more ancient use must be held in honour. No Catholic should therefore despise the older form. As the Instruction reminds us (n.7):
Among the statements of the Holy Father was the following: "There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the Liturgy growth and progress are found, but not a rupture. What was sacred for prior generations, remains sacred and great for us as well, and cannot be suddenly prohibited altogether or even judged harmful."
And a reminder of the reasons Pope Benedict had for promulgating Summorum Pontificum (n.8):
a.) offering to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, considered as a precious treasure to be preserved;

b.) effectively guaranteeing and ensuring the use of the forma extraordinaria for all who ask for it, given that the use of the 1962 Roman Liturgy is a faculty generously granted for the good of the faithful and therefore is to be interpreted in a sense favourable to the faithful who are its principal addressees;

c.) promoting reconciliation at the heart of the Church.
The Instruction contains “Specific Norms”. The first of these (n.13) reminds the Bishops of their responsibility to implement Summorum Pontificum in accordance with the mens legislatoris (the “mind” of the Holy Father) as clearly expressed in the Motu Proprio. In other words, in the case of any doubt, a Bishop must ask himself: what does the Holy Father desire?

Bishops must also promote respect for the Extraordinary Form.
14. It is the task of the Diocesan Bishop to undertake all necessary measures to ensure respect for the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite, according to the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.
He could consider:
  • celebrating it himself
  • arranging for it to be celebrated in his cathedral
  • if he is unable or unwilling to celebrate it himself, he could demonstrate the honour and respect due to the older usage by his gracious presence at its celebration.
Much hot air has been expended on the definition of the so-called “stable group” (coetus fidelium – “gathering of the faithful” as Universae Ecclesiae translates it). What constitutes such a gathering of the faithful? Does it have to have been a group who had been requesting the older usage before Summorum Pontificum? Do they have to belong to the same parish? Can they be a group of people from a wider area who have come together to request the older usage? N. 15 clears this up:
15. A coetus fidelium ("group of the faithful") can be said to be stabiliter existens ("existing in a stable manner"), according to the sense of art. 5 § 1 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, when it is constituted by some people of an individual parish who, even after the publication of the Motu Proprio, come together by reason of their veneration for the Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, and who ask that it might be celebrated in the parish church or in an oratory or chapel; such a coetus ("group") can also be composed of persons coming from different parishes or dioceses, who gather together in a specific parish church or in an oratory or chapel for this purpose.
Nos. 16-18 make it clear that priests and faithful who arrive at a church or oratory requesting the possibility of celebrating Mass in the extraordinary form should be received in a spirit of pastoral zeal and of generous welcome by the pastor or rector of the church who must always permit the requested celebration with due respect to the already established schedule of liturgical celebrations.
16. In the case of a priest who presents himself occasionally in a parish church or an oratory with some faithful, and wishes to celebrate in the forma extraordinaria, as foreseen by articles 2 and 4 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the pastor or rector of the church, or the priest responsible, is to permit such a celebration, while respecting the schedule of liturgical celebrations in that same church.

17. § 1. In deciding individual cases, the pastor or the rector, or the priest responsible for a church, is to be guided by his own prudence, motivated by pastoral zeal and a spirit of generous welcome.

§ 2. In cases of groups which are quite small, they may approach the Ordinary of the place to identify a church in which these faithful may be able to come together for such celebrations, in order to ensure easier participation and a more worthy celebration of the Holy Mass.

18. Even in sanctuaries and places of pilgrimage the possibility to celebrate in the forma extraordinaria is to be offered to groups of pilgrims who request it (cf. Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, art. 5 § 3), if there is a qualified priest.
And who is “a qualified priest”?
20 a.) Every Catholic priest who is not impeded by Canon Law is to be considered idoneus ("qualified") for the celebration of the Holy Mass in the forma extraordinaria.
Hurrah! At last it has been said!

Must he be fluent in Latin?
b.) Regarding the use of the Latin language, a basic knowledge is necessary, allowing the priest to pronounce the words correctly and understand their meaning.
No! The ability to pronounce and understand is all that is necessary. The prayers and readings of the older usage have a style that one quickly gets used to. I find that if I carefully read over the texts in Latin and English before the Mass, I am then able to understand what I am praying during the Mass. And surely a priest should do this anyway: to prayerfully meditate on the texts of the Mass before celebrating it is bound to increase his own reverence and attention, and possibly make up for any lack of attention or distraction that may befall him during the Mass.

Training in the celebration of the extraordinary form:
21. Ordinaries are asked to offer their clergy the possibility of acquiring adequate preparation for celebrations in the forma extraordinaria. This applies also to Seminaries, where future priests should be given proper formation, including study of Latin and, where pastoral needs suggest it, the opportunity to learn the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite.

Archbishop Nichols of Westminster is reported by the Catholic Herald as saying:

“Personally I don’t think it needs to be added to an already crowded seminary programme because it’s a skill that can be learned later in a priest’s life.”

Dumbing Universae Ecclesiae down a bit? The Catholic Herald has opened a debate: Should England's seminaries teach the Extraordinary Form?

No qualified priest in the diocese?
22. In Dioceses without qualified priests, Diocesan Bishops can request assistance from priests of the Institutes erected by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, either to the celebrate the forma extraordinaria or to teach others how to celebrate it.
Institutes such as the Priestly Fraternity St Peter (FSSP) or the Instutite of Christ the King Sovereign Priest can be called upon to celebrate the Mass or to assist in training priests of the diocese to do so.

Although the Liturgical Books of the extraordinary form are to be followed without modification, new saints and prefaces are going to be included:
25. New saints and certain of the new prefaces can and ought to be inserted into the 1962 Missal, according to provisions which will be indicated subsequently.
We must await these provisions. This was already indicated in Summorum Pontificum. and in the letter of Pope Benedict to the Bishops of the world concerning the re-introduction of the older usage.

The Scripture readings may be proclaimed in the vernacular in the following way:
- at Low Mass: either solely in Latin, solely in the vernacular, or in Latin followed by the vernacular;
- at “higher” forms of celebration: either solely in Latin, or in Latin followed by the vernacular. It would not be illicit to proclaim the readings solely in the vernacular at the more solemn celebrations.
26. As foreseen by article 6 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the readings of the Holy Mass of the Missal of 1962 can be proclaimed either solely in the Latin language, or in Latin followed by the vernacular or, in Low Masses, solely in the vernacular.
Which Liturgical laws apply? The Code of Canon Law 1983 is to be observed. But all liturgical law promulgated since 1962 which is incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962 is derogated:
27. With regard to the disciplinary norms connected to celebration, the ecclesiastical discipline contained in the Code of Canon Law of 1983 applies.

28. Furthermore, by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962.
So the Eucharistic fast is one hour; one may receive Holy Communion a second time in the same day; one fulfils the Sunday obligation by attending Mass in the evening of the Vigil, etc. etc. But Holy Communion is not to be given under both kinds; Holy Communion is to be received on the tongue; girls are not permitted to serve Mass.

29. Permission to use the older formula for the rite of Confirmation was confirmed by the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (cf. art. 9 § 2). Therefore, in the forma extraordinaria, it is not necessary to use the newer formula of Pope Paul VI as found in the Ordo Confirmationis.
The faculty to confirm is very easily given to priests these days. I wonder if this is the intention in this Instruction or should Confirmation still be reserved to the bishop except for the most extreme cases? I remember an occasion in my previous parish when a couple of older people would have liked to have been confirmed in the extraordinary form. I had duly received faculties but, burdened by scruple, I took the opportunity to consult an official of Ecclesia Dei who informed me that this was not the mind of the Church and that the people concerned should be asked to accept Confirmation in the ordinary form, which they graciously did.

Holy Orders

The use of the extraordinary form is restricted:
31. Only in Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life which are under the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, and in those which use the liturgical books of the forma extraordinaria, is the use of the Pontificale Romanum of 1962 for the conferral of minor and major orders permitted.
So no seminarian not belonging to one of these communities may request ordination in the extraordinary form.

These are some of the things I have considered worth noting.

Father Z comments here, and is keeping an uptodate list of other comments here.

CNS reports here.

New Liturgical Movement here.

National Catholic Register.


  1. Thank you for this summary and your comments. I studied Latin for two years before entering major seminary - and by then it was not used! I have been concerned about my lack of competence in this, but like you I read through the texts carefully and even try to translate some of it without referring to the English. The problem is that when I am celebrating the Mass the English meaning often evaporates and I am sometimes trying to remember what I read before. I suppose this cannot be avoided, but as I remarked to the local LMS rep, if I was able to celebrate it more frequently that problem might disappear. Anyway, as they say, "one does one's best"

  2. Yes, Father. One does one's best, which is all that is required. Obviously frequent use makes it easier. God bless you.

  3. Thank you very much for this wonderfully clear interpretation.

  4. Any chance the minor orders will be un-suppressed in the not-too-distant future, and thus open up ordinations in the Extraordinary Form? (I take it the minor orders are the main impediment to Extraordinary Form ordinations being widely available.)

    I'm glad the level of priestly expertise in Latin has been clarified. Stringent requirements for competency in Latin would have disqualified St. John Vianney himself.

  5. That's a very interesting question. I hadn't thought of that. You are implying that ordination to the major orders implies ordination to the minor orders in the same form. I'm not sure that this would be the case. A deacon ordained in the ordinary form would surely be validly ordained a priest in the extraordinary form. I think it's more a case of preserving the Ordinary Form as, precisely, the ordinary mode. But I could be wrong in this.

    As for the restoration of the minor orders in the "ordinary form church", I doubt it. This has been re-ordered as a result of Vatican II and I think it shall remain so for a very long time. You have pointed out some very interesting questions. Thanks.

  6. Father, many thanks for your comments. One question : was the permission to grant female altar servers not based on an official interpretation of canon law ? If so, then could it be argued (absit Deus) that they could serve the Usus Antiquior ? I'd appreciate your view on this - forearmed is forewarned. Fr. A.

  7. One question : was the permission to grant female altar servers not based on an official interpretation of canon law ? If so, then could it be argued (absit Deus) that they could serve the Usus Antiquior ?

    Heaven forfend. Anyway: what traditional-minded woman would want to serve the usus antiquior? Not this kid. In the words of William Tecumseh Sherman: "If nominated, I would not accept; if drafted, I would not run; if elected, I would not serve."

  8. I daresay it could be argued. And Father Lombardi said in his statement that the question is unclear. In any case, the interpretation said that female altar servers may serve. The pastor has the option not to retain their services.

    In the Ritus Servandus in Celebratione Missae and elsewhere in the old Missal, the server is always referred to in the masculine e.g. minister, ministro, ministri, rather than ministra. Of course it could be argued that the masculine includes the feminine. Well, let those who want female servers argue the case. They can always appeal to Rome if you refuse to allow female servers.

    Cardinal Burke certainly expressed the opinion that female altar servers were not permitted. Since the usus antiquior is provided for those who are attached to it, it makes sense to hold that since those who are attached to it would not desire this change, it should not be permitted. If you change this, what else will you change? Bear in mind female servers are an innovation. It was never done before.

    Others more expert than me would be able to answer more fully.

  9. Anita locuta est, cause finita est.

  10. Thank you Father. Fr. A.

  11. I think the restriction wrt Ordination may be that if a seminarian or seminarians wanted to be ordained in the extraordinary form it could lead to division within the diocesan presbyterate [given the present political climate of many dioceses]


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