Friday, 7 July 2017

Ten years of Summorum Pontificum

Decimo recurrente anniversario fautissimae evulgationis litterarum apostolicarum, quas Summorum Pontificum incipiunt, foris a Benedicto XVI suo motu proprio datarum, cogitationes nostras de eodem successu hic proferamus.

Happy 10th anniversary!

La misa
Salvador Tuset Tuset, s.f.
Colección privada

Summorum Pontificum was written to address the status quo and make everyone’s lives easier: priests would no longer need to apply for an indult; bishops would no longer need to decide whether to grant or deny such application; and the faithful would now have easier access to the Traditional Latin Mass. Overhead, what the motu proprio envisioned looked tantalisingly easy, but human behaviour, and the purpose of the document itself, is much, much more complicated.

Many clung to the hope that Summorum Pontificum, by lifting the traditional strictures that hampered access to the Old Rite, would little by little gain for this Old Rite wider and wider acceptance to such a point where, in every parish throughout the world, it would coexist with the New Rite, even surpass it, or dare we say supplant it. Ten years is quite a time, but not sufficient to scale the mountain this goal represented. The problem with this vision is the absence of a failsafe mechanism for spreading the Old Rite. The truth is, the motu proprio does not provide any instruction or encouragement whatsoever on propagating the usus antiquior. It is an edict of universal toleration and permission, not a blueprint for the restoration of Tradition.

The motu proprio puts most of the burden on the faithful who wish to attend the Traditional Mass. The faithful are its principal preoccupation. In one homily by a priest regularly offering the Traditional Latin Mass, he observes how today’s Catholics automatically construe faithful as only comprising of the lay, as though priests, bishops, nuns, among others, were a different species altogether. This indeed is a tragedy of modern Catholic thought. Putting so great an emphasis on pastoral care, pastoral reason, and whatever other pastoral affairs there be, has so compartmentalised our thinking to the point of appropriating said term solely for the non-ordained and the non-consecrated amongst us. Be that is it may, however saddening it is, we shall employ this impaired distinction, given that Summorum Pontificum more than once uses it as well.

In many places, Summorum Pontificum charges bishops and priests to accede to the requests of the faithful who would petition for the Old Rite, but it never instructs pastors to spread the word about it. The possibility of opening a personal parish for the Traditional Latin Mass is juxtaposed against the existence of a coetus fidelium. Priests can freely admit the faithful into the Masses they would celebrate privately according to the Old Rite, which they can offer anytime they want; yet their admission is predicated on the condition that they asked to attend so of their own free will, which would at least require prior knowledge of and immediate desire for the Traditional Latin Mass.