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On “mutual enrichment” and “Universae Ecclesiae”: A response to Fr. Stravinskas

While the incorporation of additional Mass formularies is indeed foreseen by “Summorum Pontificum”, great care should be taken in ensuring that these new euchological texts be harmonious with the ethos of the 1962 books. / t0m15

In my undergraduate metaphysics course, we were introduced to the famous paradox of the Ship of Theseus. How many components can be removed from an object until it becomes something different? Aristotle used this as an example to illustrate the notion of formal causality. This paradox comes to mind after reading the recent article by Fr. Peter M. J. Stravinskas entitled “How the ordinary form of the Mass can ‘enrich’ the extraordinary form”  [Jan 31, 2017]. I understand Fr. Stravinskas to be a truly wise and orthodox priest, but I note that some of the article’s suggestions require some nuance.

It would seem that if this entire article were to be put into practice, then the EF would not merely be “enriched by” the OF, but with a few minor exceptions, it would in fact become the OF. Other than the prayers at the foot of the altar, the Last Gospel and perhaps some slightly different ceremonial ordering, the two rites would be indistinguishable.

While Pope Benedict himself in Summorum Pontificum describes in some ways what “mutual enrichment” might look like in both directions (namely the usage of new saints, new prefaces, and the vernacular), some further guidance has been necessary. The instruction Universae Ecclesiae, of the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” (PCED), notes in nn. 27-28 that “with regard to the disciplinary norms connected to celebration, the ecclesiastical discipline contained in the Code of Canon Law of 1983 applies … 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.” Thus, it is clear that there is a desire on the part of the PCED to ensure that the 1962 liturgical texts maintain their integrity.

To this point, I have recently written and successfully defended a licentiate thesis in canon law at KU Leuven on the topic of the instruction “Universae Ecclesiae” and what compatible liturgical and disciplinary changes could be introduced to the 1962 liturgical books. I wish to respectfully challenge Father on certain of his well-intentioned suggestions, as they would appear to disrupt the integrity of the liturgical rites themselves as foreseen by Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae.

The adoption of the revised lectionary would indeed be an intrusion into the integrity of the Extraordinary Form. While in 1990, an unpublished rescript from the PCED seemed to indicate that this might be a welcome addition to the 1962 books, the recent praxis curiae of the same Pontifical Commission would indicate otherwise. (Cf. Indeed, as recent scholars such as Peter Kwasniewski and Matthew Hazell have pointed out (and as certain Anglican and Lutheran communities have also retained), the one-year lectionary has many intrinsic merits, such as repetition and offering a simple, easy-to-recall collection of varied Scriptural texts. Furthermore, the lectio continua of Matins in the traditional Breviarium Romanum represents a further way of liturgically praying and understanding the Word of God, and indeed offering the “richer fare” exhorted by the Second Vatican Council.

While the incorporation of additional Mass formularies is indeed foreseen by Summorum Pontificum, in this author’s opinion, great care should be taken in ensuring that these new euchological texts be harmonious with the ethos of the 1962 books. For instance, Annibale Bugnini noted the differing role of the preface in the revised liturgy (cf. Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975, p. 450, and the International Una Voce Federation’s “Position Paper on Prefaces”.)

Practices such as the elimination of duplicate recitations, the restoration of the Offertory procession, the proclamation of readings facing the people and the universal prayer were indeed coming into practice during the years 1960-1965, as the historical record attests, and if a community wished to incorporate these practices into the liturgical celebration of the EF, this could be seen as a potentially harmonious development. One need only look at the Saint Andrew Bible Missal (Brugge: Biblica, 1962) for an example of the bidding prayers which would be harmonious with the EF, or merely consider the fact that they were a normal part of the liturgy in pre-Reformation England (cf. Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars). Proclaiming the readings facing the people and eliminating duplicate recitations was noted in Frederick McManus’ 1960 Handbook for the New Rubrics (Baltimore: Helicon, 1960), and examples of the offertory procession were coming into vogue in the 1940’s as documented by Gerard Ellard, S.J.

An option that Fr. Stravinskas does not mention which could potentially be beneficial in the practice of enriching the EF with more elements of the OF (should there be communities who desire this) would be the possibility of using the vernacular as specified in the liturgical books approved in the year 1964, prior to the 26 September 1964 instruction “Inter Oecumenici”. Protocol 622/64, issued in May 1964, of the Consilium grants broad permission to the United States Catholic Bishops for the use of the English language in the liturgy. Very soon after, liturgical books were published in accordance with these norms, which do not alter the textual integrity of the EF, but yet permitted celebrations of the unrevised rite utilizing the vernacular. By virtue of the juridic fact of the non-abrogation of the former Missal (as stated by Benedict XVI in Summorum Pontificum), the ability to use the vernacular as specified in these norms could be reckoned as acquired rights, which conceivably were granted to other countries as well at this historical juncture.

Mass versus populum remains an option as well in the celebration of the EF. Indeed, the rubrics themselves (at least as far back as their 1920 recension) give guidance to this effect. A glance at the advertisements in the P. J. Kenedy Official Catholic Directory from the early 1960’s shows that there were more and more churches being designed and employed for Mass facing the people even prior to the conciliar liturgical reforms.

While modifying the rubrics, particularly eliminating rubrics perceived as repetitive, moving the fractio and re-ordering of the dismissal rite, would constitute a change to the integrity of the rite itself (and thus would be derogated by UE 28), the usage of the biretta and removal of the maniple seem to merely be matters regulated by local custom – which is always the best interpreter of laws (cf. CIC/83 c. 27). On the subject of custom, it should also be made explicit that none of these suggestions should be imposed upon EF liturgical communities who prefer to maintain the unique ethos of this liturgical form in contradistinction to that which is typically found in the OF.

Finally, to identify the term “Mass of the Catechumens” as “antiquarian” seems rather harsh. A term such as this, which has a long, organic usage (from the Patristic era up to contemporary times), would hardly be worthy of being identified as “antiquarian”. Rather, it appears somewhat pedantic to insist upon one terminology over the other. Both “Mass of the Catechumens” and “Liturgy of the Word” emphasize valid aspects of the same parts of the liturgy.

I prayerfully commend Father Stravinskas on his decades of good work in service to the sacred liturgy. While the impetus to harmonize the two forms of the Roman Rite is indeed a noble undertaking, there is still the need as well, as indicated by Universae Ecclesiae, to maintain the integrity of both liturgical forms. It is my hope that these comments might help to advance the discussion as to how to best ensure a proper ars celebrandi of the Roman Rite.

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About Fr. Albert P. Marcello 1 Article
Fr. Albert P. Marcello, III is a priest of the diocese of Providence, currently serving as a hospital chaplain at Rhode Island Hospital. He anticipates receiving his licentiate in canon law at the Catholic University of Louvain in the summer of 2017.

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