Tuesday, 6 January 2015

An open letter to the Bishops of England and Wales (by way of reply)

As you will be aware, Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum established that there should be two forms of celebration of the liturgy in the one Roman Rite. The one, termed the "ordinary form", is that according to the Missal of Pope Paul VI, and its two subsequent editions published by the authority of Pope John Paul II. The second, termed the "extraordinary form", is that according to the liturgical books of 1962, published at the authority of Pope John XXIII. At the time of the publication of Summorum Pontificum, and in the time immediately following, there occurred an effort from some quarters to actively promote and extend the frequency of celebrations according to the extraordinary form. At the present time, it is again being suggested that such celebrations should be actively promoted, even in places where no request or desire for such celebrations is expressed.

It is of note that, though Pope Benedict must clearly have anticipated, in writing his letter to bishops that accompanied Summorum Pontificum. that the number of celebrations in the extraordinary form would increase as a result of the motu proprio, there is nothing in that letter which advocates a promotion and extension of those celebrations to places where no manifest desire for such celebrations exists. The circumstances which the preamble to Summorum Pontificum itself, and the letter, describe are circumstances which justify a "clearer juridical regulation", to quote Pope Benedict.

The attachment to the extraordinary form is not commonly encountered in the majority of Catholic life, and is usually a manifestation of a very specific liturgical and spiritual style. It is therefore the considerations of Pope Benedict's letter that refer to the relationship of the extraordinary form to the celebration of the ordinary form that are of relevance to the majority of Catholics, rather than the wider promotion of the extraordinary form. I would suggest therefore that the Bishops Conference should give attention to:
The conditions that Pope Benedict identified as ensuring that the Missal of Paul VI is able to unite parish communities: the celebration of the ordinary form of the liturgy with reverence, that is, with a deliberately nurtured sense of the sacred rather than of the mundane and every day; and the celebration of the ordinary form in a manner faithful to its rubrics
The various aspects of mutual enrichment between the extraordinary and ordinary forms: the unification of the calendars for both forms, which will then enable the inclusion of the new saints and prefaces in the celebration of the extraordinary form and avoid the situation where on the same day very different feasts might be celebrated depending on the form used; the promotion of the use of Latin in the celebration of the ordinary form.
 It is in considerations such as these that the spiritual needs of a major part of the Catholic faithful will be met, rather than by the attempt to spread the celebration of the extraordinary form to places where there is no expressed need or desire for it. This would also be in conformity with Pope Benedict's intention, expressed in his letter to bishops, to respond to situations where there is an expressed desire for the extraordinary form and thereby arrive at "an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church".

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