Vatican City, Jul 7, 2007 (CNA) - Today marks the historic issuance of Pope Benedict’s apostolic letter on the use of the Roman Missal of 1962. The much talked about letter begins with the Pope giving a history of the use of the Roman Missal, and then provides, among other things, an explanation of the purpose of this Motu Proprio.
Before launching into the history of the pre-Vatican II Missal, the Pope makes the distinction that while some believe that it was done away with by the liturgical reforms of Vatican II, this was never the case.
“I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted.”
In order for his new letter to be understood correctly, Benedict XVI gives his readers some historical context.
Some have argued that since no new norms were given for the use of the old Missal that it was de facto discarded. However, the Pope responded that, “At the time of the introduction of the new Missal, it did not seem necessary to issue specific norms for the possible use of the earlier Missal. Probably it was thought that it would be a matter of a few individual cases which would be resolved, case by case, on the local level.”
“Afterwards, however, it soon became apparent that a good number of people remained strongly attached to this usage of the Roman Rite, which had been familiar to them from childhood.”
Benedict also mentioned Archbishop Lefebvre, who led a breakaway group from the Church called the Society of St. Pius X. Amongst this group, “fidelity to the old Missal became an external mark of identity; the reasons for the break, which arose over this, however, were at a deeper level.”
Pope Benedict then described the turmoil surrounding the reform of Vatican II and the struggle of many of the faithful who wished to preserve the pre-conciliar Missal. “This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear.”
On a personal note, the pontiff mentioned his own experience of the Vatican II “period with all its hopes and its confusion.” In addition, he said, “I have seen how arbitrary deformations of the liturgy caused deep pain to individuals totally rooted in the faith of the Church.”
Pope John Paul II’s Reforms
Given this painful context, Benedict XVI explained that John Paul II felt obliged to provide guidelines for the use of the 1962 Missal which came in the form of his Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei (2 July 1988).
This document did not give specific instructions for the use of the Missal but only provided general guidelines for Bishops to allow this usage of the Roman Rite. At the time, the Pope primarily wanted to assist the Society of Saint Pius X to recover full unity with the Successor of Peter, and sought to heal a wound experienced ever more painfully.
“Unfortunately this reconciliation has not yet come about. Nonetheless, a number of communities have gratefully made use of the possibilities provided by the Motu Proprio.”
Reason for Benedict’s Motu Proprio
The main purpose of this Motu Proprio is to “provide precise juridical norms so that the Church can attain fuller unity” and “to free Bishops from constantly having to evaluate anew how they are to respond to various situations.”
The full text of the Motu Proprio can be found in our Documents section or by clicking here.
Summary of the Twelve Articles of Summorum Pontificum
- The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI (Novus Ordo) is the ordinary form to be used for the liturgy while the Missal promulgated by Pius XII and then by Bl. John XXIII (Missal of 1962) is the extraordinary form. The 1962 Missal was never outlawed.
- In Masses without the people, priests can use the 1962 Missal except during the Triduum.
- Communities or Institutes of Consecrated Life or Societies of Apostolic Life can use the 1962 Missal.
- The faithful who wish to attend the Masses mentioned in Art. 2 can do so with permission.
- Where a group desiring the celebration of the Mass according to the 1962 Missal stably exists in a parish, let the pastor accede to their requests willingly. There may only be one such celebration on Sundays and feast days.
- In Masses according to the Missal of Bl. John XXIII the readings can be proclaimed in the vernacular.
- If the faithful cannot obtain the celebration of the Mass according to the 1962 Missal from their pastor, let them go to their Bishop, if he cannot accommodate them, let them go to the Ecclesia Dei Commission.
- If a Bishop wishes to grant a request for the use of the old Missal and is somehow prohibited, let him go to the Ecclesia Dei Commission for advice and help.
- Pastors are allowed to celebrate the sacraments of Baptism, Matrimony, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick and Confirmation according to the 1962 Missal as the good of souls may suggest. Priests can also pray using the Roman Breviary of Bl. John XXIII.
- Bishops can erect a personal parish for the celebration of the Roman rite according to the older forms.
- The Ecclesia Dei Commission is to have the form, duties and norm for action that the Roman Pontiff may wish to assign to it.
- The Ecclesia Dei Commission will exercise the authority of the Holy See by maintaining vigilance over the observance and application of these dispositions.
Whatever is decreed by Us by means of this Motu Proprio, we order to be firm and ratified and to be observed as of 14 September this year, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, all things to the contrary notwithstanding.
Vatican City, Jul 7, 2007 (CNA) - “News reports and judgments made without sufficient information have created no little confusion,” wrote Pope Benedict in reference to his newest Apostolic Letter. The news of the letter has provoked two fears: first, that the reforms of Vatican II would be called into question, and second, that giving universal approval to the older Missal would divide parishes. However, the Holy Father says that both fears are unfounded.
Citing the past history of the Church, Benedict said that too often, divisions worsened because of the lack of action by the leaders of the Church. “This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to make it possible for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew.” For this reason, the Pope decided to issue today’s Motu Proprio, which will take affect on September 14th, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
He also addressed the two main fears that have been raised by his critics.
Validity of the Second Vatican Council
“The fear that the document detracts from the authority of the Second Vatican Council… is unfounded,” wrote the Pope. To answer this fear, he maintained that the liturgy promulgated by the Second Vatican Council remains the norm, while the older form remains the extraordinary form.
Some claim that the old Missal was done away with at the Second Vatican Council, however, Benedict wrote, “There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.”
Lest there be priests who use the Motu Proprio to refuse to celebrate the liturgy according to the new Missal, the Pope wrote that, “priests of the communities adhering to the former usage cannot, as a matter of principle, exclude celebrating according to the new books. The total exclusion of the new rite would not in fact be consistent with the recognition of its value and holiness.”
Old Missal could cause parish divisions
The second fear expressed by detractors of the new norms, was that the universal approval of the 1962 Missal would lead to disarray or even divisions within parish communities. Speaking to this fear, Benedict wrote, “This fear also strikes me as quite unfounded. The use of the old Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often.”
According to the Pope, those who fear a severe decline in the use of the Novus Ordo do not have to worry because, “the new Missal will certainly remain the ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, not only on account of the juridical norms, but also because of the actual situation of the communities of the faithful.”
Contrary to causing divisions, the two forms of the Roman Missal should, in fact, serve to enrich one another. The Holy Father says that the reverence which the Old Missal inspires should mark the celebration of the new Missal as well. “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. This will bring out the spiritual richness and the theological depth of this Missal.”
Bishops and the Implementation of the Motu Proprio
The final issue addressed by the pontiff is the authority and responsibility of the bishops. “I very much wish to stress that these new norms do not in any way lessen your own authority and responsibility, either for the liturgy or for the pastoral care of your faithful. Each Bishop, in fact, is the moderator of the liturgy in his own Diocese,” wrote Benedict.
“Nothing is taken away, then, from the authority of the Bishop, whose role remains that of being watchful that all is done in peace and serenity. Should some problem arise which the parish priest cannot resolve, the local Ordinary will always be able to intervene, in full harmony, however, with all that has been laid down by the new norms of the Motu Proprio.”
“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.”
The Holy Father closed his introductory letter by entrusting the new norms to Mary Mother of the Church and imparting his Apostolic Blessing.
Denver, Colo., Jul 7, 2007 (CNA) - CNA has published the full text of the Motu Proprio on the Roman Missal of 1962 from Pope Benedict XVI under our documents section.
To help readers better understand the implications of these new instructions the USCCB Secretariat for the Liturgy has created two sets of Questions and Answers as well. These can also be found in our documents section.