Summorum Pontificum and the "Letter to the Bishops that accompanies the Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio data Summorum Pontificum" are only the first two of the three documents. In this third installment, I address the "Explanatory Note on Motu Proprio 'Summorum Pontificum'," and this contains some additional points that the first two do not mention. Again, I would like to dive straight into the text.
This paragraph briefly introduces the other two documents, summarizing them as saying in the first that its policies replace previous policies, and the second in which some of the rational and other such considerations are expressed. It only adds the extent of to whom the other documents have been officially sent. Clearly, the intention is that all Novus Ordo "bishops" will receive a copy, although it is evidently left to "presidents of episcopal conferences" and "nuncios" to perform the actual distribution.
Two "usages." But the true and authentic Roman Liturgy has only one usage - always has and always will - and that is the Tridentine one. The other is not only a different "usage," but an altogether different rite, belonging to an altogether different church (or group). It is neither Roman nor Liturgical. But except to introduce the word "usage" there is nothing new here. So no matter what these documents say they are two different rites and I shall so treat them.
These paragraphs summarize the two different rites to be used in the Vatican institution once the Motu Proprio takes effect, and reiterates that the Catholic rite is relegated to the status of an "extraordinary" rite while the Novus Ordo is the "ordinary" rite. Also brought up here is the Latin Novus Ordo, which remains as a recognized variant of the Novus Ordo. (Now there would be a proper occurrence of the word "usage" for then it would be correct to speak of the Latin Novus Ordo and the vernacular Novus Ordo as truly different "usages." Perhaps that is meant to remind some that there could be more Latin Novus Ordos (hint hint?).
Only God and His Holy Church have the authority to impose the authentic Catholic Rite; the Novus Ordo has no such authority. Unfortunately, their intention here is to again load the deck against the Catholic Mass. The other has long been thus heavy-handedly imposed on billions of unsuspecting souls, and still seems to bear much of this weight even now, though at last this one small optional "out" is being made more available.
Some bad news here: Not only are vernacular readings to be encouraged (as mentioned in the other documents), but other parts are now going to be pronounced aloud where before they were not, giving the Catholic Missal more of the flavor of the Novus Ordo with all of its "audience participation." The "Dialogue Mass" goes from some rare and obscure liturgical experiment to some sort of nearly established standard here. Another serious dose of bad news here is that the hand missals used by the people (with the Latin on one page and the vernacular on the other) are to be "re-edited." What change is to be made to their content, one must wonder? Perhaps they might mate the bad Novus Ordo "translations" to the Latin text, or mutilate the Good Friday prayers even more than the original 1962 Roman Missal did, who knows?
This is definitely another piece of bad news. What this is saying is that the Novus Ordo parishioner who normally attends the 9:30 Novus Ordo service will most definitely not be coming to church one fine Sunday morning and finding instead a Catholic Mass. The Novus Ordo will continue at all the normal established times, and it is only that some new Mass time will be added for the Catholic Mass. So unless he has the initiative to go at the different time, he is not even going to know that anything has happened. This will definitely add years to the time it takes for its universal appeal to be discovered. There will be those who know about it, and those who don't, just like those who have read some popular new book (or seen some popular new movie or television show) and those who have not. Those who have will find themselves incomprehensible to those who have not. Those who have not will probably wonder what all the hubbub is all about but probably takes years (if ever) before bothering to see for themselves.
At last, something good here. Yes, there have long coexisted differing calendars among the various Rites of the Church since forever, and this has never been a problem, and as such this would seem to be a defining principle expressed here that after the three years have passed and assembled reports assimilated, it genuinely ought not be one of the "solutions" to any of the supposed "problems" which may arise to make the new 1962 Missal calendar conform to the Novus Ordo calendar. The idea of supposedly one single "Rite" using two such significantly different calendars depending upon something so subtle and nuanced as a "usage" is however something quite unprecedented. While this unfortunately stops short of being any sort of mandate, it does seem to indicate that the two calendars ought not be mixed, and that at least is a good thing.
This paragraph seems to reduce what the Motu Proprio itself seems to promise, namely all sacraments needed in their traditional forms, to merely weddings and baptisms (and funerals which are not another sacrament but merely a particular Mass). Where is there any mention of Penance (Confession) or Extreme Unction (or even, in the case of the latter, its loose Novus Ordo equivalent, "Anointing of the sick")? But this list might just be of examples of what is allowable, and of what they might expect to be most typically asked for, and not meant to be an exhaustive list. Even more unsettling is the use here of the phrase "reasonably-motivated demand." What exactly constitutes a "reasonable motivation"? Most likely you have to persuade them (deceive them into thinking) that you really don't have a problem with the Novus Ordo "sacraments" at all, but as a favor and a kindness to you, since you happen to "prefer" it, would you be so kind as to give me a traditional absolution or wedding or funeral, etc.?
The ability to set up "personal parishes" already exists before and is one thing substantially unchanged in going to this new policy. The issue of the number of "faithful" needed to justify the setting up of such a "personal parish" is again highlighted (hint hint?), but again without drawing lines at any particular number that constitutes a "substantial number" sufficient to warrant it (and it is specifically indicated to be a different standard than would apply for some different sort of "personal parish").
This has already been misunderstood to mean that some number of lay faithful are needed to justify a Catholic Mass at all, but clearly this is speaking only about the creation of "personal parishes" and not the establishment of a Catholic Mass (or reasonable facsimile thereof) in every Novus Ordo parish, which is not dependant upon any "number" of those requesting it.
The Roman Missal itself is the main and first listed of these liturgical books to be reprinted. Unfortunately here comes another terrible ruling against the use of previous Missals (HERE at last comes the one real concession to the pressures of other religions such as Judaism and Islam). Up until this point even some few Indultarian clerics had been known to use the previous Missal, but now, no more. What will the current reprint of the 1962 Missal do here? Or even if it fully preserves the prayers for Jews and Moslems as is found therein, what about the new "fusion rite" when it comes? And it is quite incorrect to describe the order of Holy Week as being "renewed" in 1955 since it does not actually restore any authentic ancient practice.
The reprinting of the Roman Ritual is certainly good since it contains the other sacraments, so at last it is not merely the Mass but all sacraments that are again being provided. But through a minor technical error this is somewhat incorrect. The Roman Ritual does not include any "Anointing of the sick," but it does contain the far more valuable and precious sacrament of Extreme Unction.
Here comes the only mention of the possibility of using the Catholic Roman Pontifical for the ordination of clergy. Unfortunately even here, the wording is very bad. When it states (documenting here for the very first time) a policy that existed under the previous Indult that it could be used (and it was actually used on at least some occasions for some Fraternity of Peter and Institute of Christ the King priests), it uses the ambiguous phrase "was permitted in 1988," with no comment on whether that continues today. Are they saying "We've already permitted it since 1988 and it continues to be permitted today," or "We used to permit it under the 1988 Indult but now no more"? It doesn't say. Of course, if it is not intended to be permitted under the new policy, there most certainly would be no use in including it in the new edition of the Roman Pontifical, now would there? And if the book is indeed printed in full, thus including it, would that not constitute at least a tacit approval to continue to use it? One may hope.
The Reprinting of the Roman Pontifical is again a good thing, since (unless it gets bowdlerized to exclude Holy Orders) its inclusion of how to perform the Catholic Sacraments of Holy Orders would carry with it at least an implicit or tacit acceptance of the use of the valid and traditional rites for the sacrament of Holy Orders. Unfortunately, how many valid bishops remain in the present Vatican institution? Well, there's Bishop Rifan for one, but who else? A dozen? A hundred? Who knows! And probably most or all of them are in retirement. But they could come out of retirement to co-consecrate, and that would be enough. And the Eastern Rites were (or are being) corrupted much more recently, so many in service there would also be valid, and not in retirement. Might any of them cross-rite co-consecrate?
It is good that the Roman Breviary is being reprinted and not that horrific Novus Ordo "Liturgy of the Hours" that replaced it. John XXIII, for all his faults, was thankfully rather protective of the Breviary, and the edition which saw print during his day (that which is being reprinted here) is only somewhat edited down from the full Catholic Breviary, and did not contain any Modernistic contamination. John XXIII had even permitted the old Psalter after Pius XII, in a gravely ill-advised step, had replaced it with a lame and worthless translation. So this at least is good.
So this is at least some much needed good news. The 1962 editions are to be reprinted (at least for a while, until the new fusion rite come along), and that includes not only the Mass but all the other sacraments and blessings.
This again reiterates that the priest must be qualified to do it. It does however add the suggestion that some steps are to be taken to prepare them, perhaps by offering classes in Latin, and in how to perform the ceremonial, etc. At least the intent here could be good, and the skills so imparted (if not tainted in some way) could be useful, but the other issue of having them genuinely ordained is not addressed, and indeed one can only expect that invalidly "ordained" Novus Ordo presiders will end up knowing how to do a convincing-looking "Mass," but still fail to do it validly for lack of any real ordination.
Though no guidance has been provided in any of these three documents as to what "counsel and assistance" the Commission is meant to provide, here they are evidently given pretty much a free hand to do as they see fit. It really is going to be up to them to decide what all the ambiguous and unclear declarations herein are actually going to mean, in terms of official policy.
And this last paragraph merely reiterates the date it becomes effective and that one more report would be due in three years, adding only a certain emphasis that this report is meant to address whatever sorts of "problems" come up. After this comes some several paragraphs of commentary, as a kind of footnote to the Note:
This appears to be yet another statement to the effect that the Catholic Rite cannot have the Novus Ordo readings affixed to it, so this would mesh nicely with the statement that the two different calendars can peacefully coexist side by side as differing calendars already do exist between the different Rites of the Church.
"Corresponding," rather loosely, I should say.
This seems to go somewhat against the above stated intent to make the use of the 1962 Missal in the form of a "Dialogue Mass." Perhaps the Dialogue Mass is only being encouraged, not mandated. One may hope. We will see.
No concelebration in the Tridentine Catholic Rite, as always, so that is not new. The bit about the direction of the altar and the celebrant (whether facing the people or not) does here open the door to the abuse so universal to the Novus Ordo of facing the people and turning one's back to the altar (and perhaps even the tabernacle if not removed to some other location). And to think that once upon a time Fr. Ratzinger was so keen on facing the altar (and away from the people), even in Novus Ordo services, and now he seems altogether indifferent to this. Once again his attainment of the supreme Vatican office has only here too made him all the more fallible. Perhaps this is a concession so that a priest can use the 1962 Missal words, but still face the audience and so no need is there to redesign the Church architecture to fit the Catholic Mass, thus allowing both Catholic and Novus Ordo rites to exist side by side. Never mind the obvious fact that this is a distortion of the Catholic Rite (and as he himself used to point out, even the Novus Ordo could permit the presider to face away from the audience, since in fact it pretty much allows him to do whatever the hell he pleases).
Between having him face the people, and also performing a Dialogue Mass, this is going to open the door for a great many abuses of the liturgy, even while he supposedly wants to cut down on abuses of the Novus Ordo service. Perhaps this is his "reform of the reform," making the two look more and more alike, until some eventual compromise somewhere in between makes the distinction between Catholic and Novus Ordo totally indiscernible.
And here at last is made explicit the talk of making changes to the Catholic Missal. Well, the inclusion of new saints over time is inevitable and of itself need not be anything bad, providing only that actual saints who have possessed all the true criteria are the ones who are added, and not any of these from all the Mickey-Mouse "canonizations" made under the Novus Ordo by bypassing the standards (no "devil's advocate," no miracles, no long waiting period, for example). New prefaces is a bit more alarming, since new prefaces made up by the same crew who had previously come up with the Arian "preface" (to go with their "Eucharistic prayer #4) certainly does not bode well, unless they merely refer to some few ancient prefaces, long in disuse, being restored (not likely, but hey, one can hope?). Most scary of all is that open ended "etc." That could include anything, including some new fusion rite incorporating details of both the Catholic and Novus Ordo rites. This here is obviously a major time bomb and playing with fire. And on that one last word the Explanatory Note ends quite abruptly.
So again summing up, in this Note we find again several things, some good and others not. Again, let's start with the good:
Now, to the bad things about this Note:
And that wraps up all the three documents. I think it is abundantly clear that there has been a genuine policy change, and it is obvious that it will have far reaching impacts on all of us. But what are those impacts, and how many of them have been anticipated or intended? That is what I wish to explore in the fourth and final installment of this series.