Summorum Pontificum: What’s Laudable

I don’t often share Rock’s effusiveness when it comes to the prelates of the Church. I can think of one pastor for whom I worked that I would put a head above the rest. I’ve not known many bishops; perhaps one of mine is also a head above the others. Rock seems to have accurately charactierized this motu proprio as a highly skilled and sensitive compromise. It’s an admirable document on that score, thanks probably to the pope. My reading of it finds little to which to object and a few notable sections.

It’s interesting to have a document so broadly backed up with a letter, then with an ample introduction text nearly as long as the twelve articles themselves. From the introductory letter, wisdom we rarely see from a Catholic prelate:

Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden.

Reconciliation has far too few proponents, advocates, and examples in the Church. We need all the ones we can get, especially if there is a prayer for the sacramental form of it to take root, as some suggest we need.

More in the introductory letter:

… the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching: new Saints and some of the new Prefaces can and should be inserted in the old Missal. The “Ecclesia Dei” Commission, in contact with various bodies devoted to the usus antiquior, will study the practical possibilities in this regard.

So the Ecclesia Dei commission will be responsible for the “organic growth” of the 1962 Missal. Saints missing since then to be added, plus some new prefaces, too. That seems reasonable.

Furthermore, I invite you, dear Brothers, to send to the Holy See an account of your experiences, three years after this Motu Proprio has taken effect. If truly serious difficulties come to light, ways to remedy them can be sought.

This was clearly what the “leakers” considered a three-year clause. Given the prescriptions of the twelve articles, it seems reasonable to assume that if problems arise, three years is enough time to work them out on a local level before submitting them to Rome as part of the evaluation. I’d hope that the implementation of the vernacular translations of the Roman Missal have similar clauses.

Article 6 in the mp surprised me, but I think it’s a healthy development:

In Masses celebrated in the presence of the people in accordance with the Missal of Bl. John XXIII, the readings may be given in the vernacular, using editions recognised by the Apostolic See.

Liam was all over the posting of Summorum Pontificum on a few web pages. I know he’ll likely comment on it. Others are free to comment as well. It would be rather poor form to have such long comment threads on speculation only to collectively yawn now that we have the real goods.

In case you missed it, it goes into effect on 14 September, this year.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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15 Responses to Summorum Pontificum: What’s Laudable

  1. Gavin says:

    My take on the MP was that the obvious thrust of it was reconciliation. I think the response it requires from ALL of us (even you, Todd) is to reach across the aisle and accept those at the extraordinary form as Catholics too. Same goes with them. No more excuses.

  2. Liam says:

    Being an early riser, since I get up early from Mon-Sat to hit the YMCA to swim 2k each morning as soon as it opens, I had an advantage since I was already up as it was midday in Rome…

    Anyway, the terminology of “usages” or “uses” seems to hit the correct tone, rather than “rites”. Extraordinary/ordinary seems to be fine, too.

    The explicit rejection of the hermeneutic of rupture is most welcome, as that is what feeds the rabid antipodes, as it were.

    Also welcome is the recognition of varied groups of recipients.

    The idea that the preconciliar usage is not frozen in 1962 is also very welcome, and the permission to use the postconciliar readings in the vernacular (the USCCB Q&A refers to the Lectionary but the MP refers more broadly to vernacular translations recognized by Rome, of which the Lectionary is one) will allow homilists to focus on one set of readings to preach upon and allow pastors to determine that the faithful have a common Word as he deems appropriate or not. The USCCB Q&A says that the 1962 calendar will be retained, so that may mean one might have 1998 Lectionary readings out of sync with the 1962 calendar, which is one of those things that will need to be worked out in practice. I actually like the idea of not trying to manage this all in advance, but allow a period of critical experimentation that may be subject to evaluation in a relatively tight time period (3 years is short, folks).

    Likewise, the optional addition of the new prefaces and propers.

    The role of bishops seems to be captured well, without too much technical micromanagement.

    And, as the 2002 Missal is not intended to be an exclusive litmus test, I like that the MP rejects the 1962 Missal as an exclusive litmus test. And that folks who reject the 1962 Missal in favor of earlier Missals are going to be left wanting….

    Overall, the document struck me as having an open and hopeful tone, not fearful and reactive. And that is perhaps the most important dimension of the communications here.

    I should also commend the USCCB’s BCL for having a Q&A ready (it follows the Vatican texts in the most recent newsletter, linked below) and linkable from its home page for this today, which appears not only well designed to help pastors, liturgists and offices of worship to lay this out for the faithful in practical terms, but also for the press to get a better understanding of what is and isn’t involved. Bp Trautman and his staff deserve praise for empowering people with this.

  3. Liam says:

    Correction (big one): the MP doesn’t refer to readings from the ordinary usage being permitted to be used in the extraordinary usage – it only says that the readings from the older usage may be given simply in the vernacular, from editions approved by Rome.

  4. Talmida says:

    I’m not an expert at reading these documents, but I got the distinct impression that the decision to have a public extraordinary use mass would be up to the people. A priest could not impose it on an unwilling parish. A priest can only say such a mass in public if asked to do so by the people.

    Am I mistaken in this?

  5. I think the BCL should proofread with a bit more care. In the “Ten Questions on the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Missale Romanum” the editions of the MR between Trent and Vatican II are listed, with dates. The edition of Leo XII, according to this, was promulgated in 1994.

    And to think I missed that entirely . . .

  6. Gavin says:

    Yes, Claude, I caught that! Talk about a mistake!

  7. Gavin says:

    Talmilda, you have to qualify the words “parish” and “people”. The only thing everyone in a parish can agree upon is… well, nothing. The document does not say that a priest may not impose the old Mass on a congregation 100% against it (good luck finding that!) Common sense, however, does dictate that the priest shouldn’t do that. I would say that what this implies is that the priest may say all the private extraordinary Masses he wants and, if some people in the parish so request, may make those public. Ultimately this is “power to the people”, as Fr. Fox said. No one (short of ecclesia dei) can deny a properly trained and capable priest from saying the extraordinary form, and no one (again, short of ecclesia dei) can deny the form to people who want it.

  8. Tony says:

    Ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Mass sound suspiciously like “High” and “Low” Mass.

  9. Except, there isn’t anything like a “low” form of the ordinary form, that I can tell. The “lowest” I’ve ever seen the ordinary form go is the “partly-sung dialogue Mass” on weekdays when there aren’t any musicians, recited with sung Alleluia, Amen, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei in a memorized a-capella setting. I’ve never seen any ordinary form equivalent of the “15-minute low Mass”. Maybe I’ve just lived in the wrong places……….

  10. Gavin says:


    I imagine it’s a matter of how you exercise the options. At my parish we have “low” and “high” Sunday Mass (note the quotes). They aren’t officially designated as such, but the early Mass is shorter, mostly spoken, and has less (and easier) congregational singing. The late Mass has a choir, tends to be mostly sung, and uses lots of congregational singing. Interestingly, we use the propers at the “Low” Mass, which historically would make it a “high” Mass… but I guess the point is that it’s shorter.

  11. sacerdos says:

    No, I think it is quite clear that a pries cannot impose the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite upon a congregation which is not interested in it. Several times in the MP the adverb “spontaneously” is used, which suggests that a regular “public” celebration of the extraordinary form would require the “spontaneous” request of a stable group of the lay faithful. On the other hand, lay faithful may be admitted to a priest’s “private” celebration of the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, when they spontaneously request to be so admitted. How would it work, say if Father intends to offer the extraordinary form of the Mass at a time (though regular, but not a part of his regular oblgation to offer Mass in the parish) designated and published in the bulletin. Some interested parties spontaneously choose to attend, some curious parties come out of curiosity, and all develop a greater appreciation for the extraordinary form of the Mass, then this group, which has by then become a “stable” group spontaneously requests that the pastor offer the Mass according to the extraordinary form on a more regular basis (even as part of his Sunday Mass offerings). I think the greater exposure (especially among the younger generation) will develop a greater demand (it will by no means be overwhelming) than we have seen up to this point.

    The fact that individuals may also spontaneously request the Sacraments be offered in the extraordinary form suggests to me that parishes may begin to see an increase in requests for the requiem Mass (whether low, sung or solemn) in the extraordinary form.

  12. On Sundays at my home parish (which is the Cathedral) there’s simpler and more done up on the regular Sunday, also. The 8 am is the archbishop’s Mass, but it is also live-broadcast, so has no choir and tends to opt for the simpler options, so even with the archbishop preaching, the Mass fits within the strict 55-minute broadcast window. [One of only two good reasons I can see for being concerned about length of time, rather than the Mass taking whatever time it takes. The other is lunch-hour weekday Masses concerned that folk can get back to their cubicle farms in time.] The two later Masses are with choir, and often with sung propers and Eucharistic Prayer when the rector is celebrant.

  13. Todd says:

    It would be accurate to say there is no such thing as “high” and “low” Masses in the 1970 Missal. The ideal for Sundays and holy days is what would have passed for a “high” Mass in prior missals. That can be seen as improvement or impossible challenge, but that’s the vision.

  14. tihopilik says:


    I can’t be bothered with anything these days, but shrug. I just don’t have anything to say recently.


  15. lokimikoj says:


    I see first time your site guys. I like you :)

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