Sunday, 23 May 2010

Observations on the Society of St Tarcisius

Several bloggers have been very encouraging about the Society of St Tarcisius, a sodality recently established for those who serve at Mass celebrated in the Extraordinary Form. I have three observations about it. In summary of them, I find that, while the aim of being an organisation supporting the serving of the Extraordinary Form is legitimate, it is disappointing that "traditional Catholicism" does not appear to be engaging fully with what I understand Summorum Pontificum to have intended.

1. "The society is specifically committed to the traditional Latin Liturgy of the Catholic Church, in a form no later than that current in 1962."

I believe that this is at odds with Summorum Pontificum and the accompanying letter of Pope Benedict XVI in at least three ways. The first is the continued use of the term "traditional Latin Liturgy". After Summorum Pontificum, I do not believe that it is right to consider the Extraordinary Form to be in any way more "traditional" than the Ordinary Form. The second is the reference to the "form no later than that current in 1962". This is a statement of resistance to the idea of "mutual enrichment" that is expressed in Pope Benedict's accompanying letter, since it does not admit of any growth in the celebration of the Extraordinary Form in the light of the present life of the Church. The third way, more implicit, is that it indicates an unwillingness of those attached to the Extraordinary Form to engage in the enrichment of the Ordinary Form  - which is also a part of the agenda of "mutual enrichment".

My analysis of these issues with regard to Summorum Pontificum and the accompanying letter can be found here.

2. "The Society of St Tarcisius is sponsored by the Latin Mass Society - Traditional Catholicism for the 21st Century"

It is my view that, after Summorum Pontificum, the idea of "traditional Catholicism" - understood as a movement in the Church, expressing and living out a particular charism - can no longer be defined only in terms of attachment to the Extraordinary Form. I have attempted on this blog to arrive at an understanding of what a charism of "traditional Catholicism" might be post-Summorum Pontificum. I do not feel that I was successful in finding such a definition, though a certain definition can be found in the rules of the priestly institutes that emerged from the Society of St Pius X under the provisions of Ecclesia Dei. The Latin Mass Society and the Society of St Tarcisius seem to me to be continuing to define "traditional Catholicism" only in terms of attachment to the Extraordinary Form.

3. "It ... is a private association of Christ's faithful, sponsored by the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales"

The term "private association of Christ's faithful" indicates a canonical status - cf cc.321-326 of the Code of Canon Law. Such associations are self-governing though they are expected to act in communion with their local dioceses. They can be established quite freely under c.321 - "Christ's faithful direct and moderate private associations according to the provisions of their statutes". Or they can seek a juridical personality by a decree of appropriate ecclesiastical authority which might be the local bishop, bishops conference or, in the case of universal associations, the Holy See - cf c.322. Such a decree requires the approval of the statutes by the appropriate ecclesiastical authority, but does not alter the self-governing nature of the association.

I expect, but do not know, that the Society of St Tarcisius has not sought to gain juridical personality (corrections in the Comments, please, if I have got this wrong) - I think it would be unusual for a sodality of this type to do so, particularly as it is early in its existence, and there is no real need for it to do so in order to meet its aims. This observation would apply to any similar organisation, and is not specific to a "traditional" organisation.

However, should a bishop be approached to grant approval of the statutes and grant a decree under c.322, I would hope that they would consider the questions raised in this post in the way in which they respond.

Can I, a little mischievously, suggest that the story of St Tarcisius would in fact provide a good model for those who act as Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, particularly those who take the Lord to those who are sick or housebound?


Rita said...

well said!

I will suggest however that the input to this society from members of Blackfriars itself will take a more "both and" approach to the OF & EF.

Every mass I have ever attended at Blackfriars, be it OF or EF, has been astonishingly reverential and profoundly prayerful. No friar there is exclusively one rite or the other, or exculsively Dominican rite for that matter. The other members of the society, may have a more polarised agenda, who knows.....their website is so staggeringly "old school" in design, I'm not convinced this whole project will take off anyway.

I'd actually hazard a guess that the main reason this society exists is so that there is a soldality of altar servers that is entirely male.

Anonymous said...

I find your analysis very useful - thank you...............I share some of your concerns and do so as a Catholic faithful to the Magisterium but increasingly concerned by some emerging aspects of 'tradionalists'.

Athanasius said...

I think, if I may say so, that you are taking an unnecessary stance on this. It is entirely proper that there should be a solidality set up purely with the 1962 form in mind because it is that much more difficult (given the general absence of such masses and qualified priests) for servers to learn and get practice in that form of the Roman rite.

With regard to mutual enrichment- it can only be a good thing for the liturgy of the Church, whatever your opinion about the EF, if there are well-trained priests and servers in the older form. There can be no mutual enrichment if people are not experienced in the usus antiquior! The same, I would suggest, is true of laity.

Finally, I think that your beef with the use of the word traditional is unnecessary. I do understand the concern that many have with the hijacking of language to one's own ends, but it seems undeniable that a liturgical form that is older and still in use constitutes something more traditional *in the popular sense of the word* than a form that is only about 40 years old. I take the point that that does not make its adherents more 'traditional Catholics', but then I don't think that the blurb for this solidality tries to claim that. I also take the point that it could be possible to interpret the 1969 rite as a development of the forms that had existed before (just as 1962 is different from 1955 and so on), but that really doesn't hold up on closer examination.

Antonio said...

It was only a matter of time for when a post like this would finally appear. You really do have a problem with wider access to the EF, as evidenced by your posts on the motu proprio. I cannot help but think that if this had been a society that was exclusively dedicated to the ordinary form, then you would not be so contrary about it or even bother to dedicate a whole blogpost on something that really is so minor in the grand scheme of things.

Joe said...

To respond briefly to Athanasius and Antonio:

1. To use Antonio's phrase, I am quite entitled to "have a problem with wider access to the EF" (actually, not so much "wider access", but an exclusiveness of adherence that is not just received but promoted to others), since I believe that those with an adherence to the EF are leaving aside aspects of the provisions of Summorum Pontificum and the accompanying letter from Pope Benedict.

2. I have yet to be convinced, in the light of the discussions that it has prompted, that my understanding of Summorum Pontificum and the accompanying letter from Pope Benedict XVI is incorrect.

3. On this particular topic, I am quite happy to articulate a point of view that is a bit different from that which seems to dominate Catholic blogs. Part of blogging is about dialogue.

davidforster said...

From the Secretary of the SST.

Thank you for your comments, which are received in a spirit of dialogue.

1. You are right about the canonical position of the Sodality - that accords with my own understanding of Canon Law.

2. Your suggestion that we restrict 'traditional' to mean attachement to the EF is unwarranted. The particular mission of the SST is the formation of altar servers, so that's what we refer to in our literature. However, there is no implication that 'traditional' is to be restricted to the EF - in my own case, I would specifically deny that restriction.

3. I would much prefer to be 'Catholic without qualification' rather than using a label like 'traditional'. However, there is in fact a traditional agenda, just as there is very clearly a modernist one, and the use of language is for the purpose of clarity.

4. The categories of OF and EF are a legal device introduced by the Holy Father in his Motu Proprio. He could just as easily change the nomenclature; possibly switch the positions of the OF and EF if he wanted; or even introduce a third form. Referring to the traditional Roman rite is a matter of fact, not of law: the Novus Ordo, whether you like it or loathe it, is a creation of the late 1960s, and is derivative; whereas the old rite (the "EF") is the organic development of the Roman rite that goes back to the catacombs.

Best wishes

St Tarcisius
Fidelis usque ad mortem

Athanasius said...

Joe, of course you're entitled to 'have a problem', and in the spirit of dialogue that you talk about I'd like to respond again, if I may.

I think the trouble is that you are confusing two things that ought not to be confused. You are considering the attitude of many (but not all) of those who are attached to the older form, which insists upon the superiority of that form and would like its celebration to the exclusion of the newer form.

From this you appear to me (and apologies if I'm wrong) to be extending your concern to situations such as this solidality, which exists for a very specific purpose. But as I explained in my last comment, I think your concerns are misplaced even according to your reading of Summorum pontificum.

To put it another way, there is simply no point in allowing the older form to be celebrated if it is not going to be celebrated well. For it to be celebrated well, priests and servers need proper training. This does not mean that the form stops being 'extraordinary' according to your understanding of His Holiness's use of the term (which I also disagree with, but that's a different point). It just means that the EF is well celebrated. Having servers who can celebrate this form well can only impact well on the newer form, since one assumes that these servers will also at times serve the new rite, or at least the general awareness of a way of doing things can permeate all levels of Catholic society. This seems to me to be what the Pope has in mind in the letter.

It is a commonly-reported experience of priests who celebrate both forms of the Roman rite that learning the older has enriched their celebration of the newer. The same is surely true of the laity: I know from my own point of view that attending the older form has helped me appreciate the mystery and learn how to pray the newer rite.

But finally - by your own analysis, S.P. seeks to provide a solution for those attached to the older form: so why should they not make use of that provision? Once again, I don't think there is any need to split hairs about the word 'traditional'. All Catholicism is in one sense traditional, but according to the popular sense of the word (more or less equivalent to 'older') the EF can rightly be called 'traditional'. Let's not get into a lather about mere words eh?

Certainly the Pope is content to see the spread of the older rite - he has recently expressed his hope that the FSSP for example will extend their role, rather than be kept in the shadows, merely to represent an extreme minority.

Antonio said...

Joe, in regards to your points:

1. The same can equally apply to people like yourself who more or less have an adherence to the OF.

2. You are entitled to your own interpretation of the motu proprio but I think you will be rather along in it. The only people I can see sharing your restrictive view of things are people who can't come to terms that the Holy Father has allowed those who are devoted to the EF to have a much wider access to it (without the politics involved in going to unsympathetic bishops to request something that has never been abolished).

3. Confer above

We're not living in 1988 now. This is 2010 and things have moved on.

Joe said...

Thank you for the comments received from David Forster, Athanasius, and Antonio; and for the spirit of dialogue in which they have been made.

In the light of these comments, could someone explain for me the meaning and purpose of the sentence The society is specifically committed to the traditional Latin Liturgy of the Catholic Church, in a form no later than that current in 1962 on the SST website?

One thing I love about Pope Benedict XVI is his use of language, his ability to find a turn of phrase that beautifully and quite preciselyexpresses a reality. So I do not believe that the language of "Ordinary Form" and "Extraordinary Form" should be taken lightly. It is a juridical language, but very expressive of a legislative intention, a legislative intention that is further developed in the letter that Pope Benedict wrote to accompany Summorum Pontificum.

As "ordinary", the Ordinary Form is the presumed form of the Roman Rite, and that seems to me to be the legislative intention of Summorum Pontificum at the same time as it allows a more free celebration of the Extraordinary Form. If I remember correctly, Pope Benedict wrote in his accompanying letter that "it is the Missal of Paul VI that will unite parishes".

Joe said...

As a PS to my comment above.

I did some time ago endeavour to gain an understanding of the nature of "traditional Catholicism" that was distinct from attachment to the Extraordinary Form; and didn't feel that I was very successful. David - perhaps you could point me in the direction of what you mean by a "traditional agenda", as this would perhaps contribute to my understanding of this question?

Antonio said...

Joe - the Holy Father wrote in his accompanying letter:

"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."

Rather different from saying the Holy Father allegedly wrote, ""it is the Missal of Paul VI that will unite parishes"

Joe said...


Thank you for the quotation, which I was citing from memory

I think that even the corrected quotation indicates an expectation that the Missal of Paul VI is the missal that should unite parishes. Implemented with two key elements of the agenda of "mutual enrichment" - a sense of the sacred and a faithfulness to rubrics.

davidforster said...

"The society is specifically committed to the traditional Latin Liturgy of the Catholic Church, in a form no later than that current in 1962."

This is actually similar to the wording of the Latin Mass Society constitution. What it is intended to say, in my understanding, is that support for other traditional Latin forms, apart from the 1962 missal, are not excluded.

For example, a number of religious orders have their own missals which predate 1962, and these are supported.

Also, some churches, for example Milan, have their own traditional version of the Latin Missal.

Also, there are some practices which weren't in the 1962 missal, but which it is conceivably might be authorized. I believe that the Pentecost vigil mass, which originally was similar to that of Easter, was curtailed in the 1962 missal. Now that it's once again been made an option in the OF, it's not unreasonable that permission might be sought and given to revive it in the EF, even though it's not in the 1962 missal.

Similarly, there are some groups that by custom have been using the unreformed Holy Week rites (i.e. pre-1955) and I believe that a request for this to be properly authorized is being presented to Ecclesia Dei.

I hope that clarifies why the sentence, which at first sight seems awkwardly worded, is expressed as it is.