Here is the statement from His Excellency Most Reverend James A. Murray, Bishop of Kalamazoo from the diocesan newspaper The Good News.
The first part concerns the recent CDF document. I include it, because His Excellency makes a superb link.
My emphases and comments.
By now, you probably have heard about two brief documents recently released by the Vatican. The purpose of the first was to clarify understanding about the unity and primacy of the Catholic Church. The second allowed for wider permission of the celebration of the liturgy according to the 1962 Missal of Pope Blessed John XXIII, in addition to the Mass with which we are all familiar. Despite their clarity, both documents have unfortunately caused confusion for many. Pope Benedict XVI attributes this confusion, at least in part, to “news reports and judgments made without sufficient information.” With this in mind, it might do us all well to take a brief look at the two documents and what they say.
The first document, “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church” was published by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on June 29, the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul. In a series of five questions and answers, it explains the nature of the Catholic Church and how it relates to other Christian communities. In so doing, it reaffirms what the Catholic Church has always taught, and should therefore neither be surprising nor scandalous. However, like so many other truths of our faith, there is a tendency for some to emphasize one aspect of the Church’s teaching to exclusion of others, thus resulting in confusion or error.
In clarifying the nature of the Church, the document includes two ideas that may seem at first paradoxical. First of all, the document was intended to respond to some theological errors, which in recent years and in various ways have denied the uniqueness of the Catholic Church. It therefore reaffirms that the Church established by Jesus Christ is a visible, spiritual community and only the Catholic Church possesses the “fullness of grace and truth” that Christ desires for it. Secondly, it explains that “the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them.” Several misleading news reports, unfortunately left out this affirmation of non-Catholic Christian communities, giving some the impression that Catholics are to believe that outside the Church there is merely a “churchless void.”
In truth, both aspects are important to avoid confusion. On the one hand, the Church of Christ exists as a unique historical reality, which Christ promised to be with until the end of time, sending His Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (cf. Mt 28:20, Jn 16:13). The Catholic Church – with the Eucharistic mystery entrusted to her and governed by the successor to Peter and the bishops in union with him – is not just another Christian “denomination,” but rather contains all of the elements essential to the one, holy and apostolic Church. On the other hand, although Christian communities that are not historically connected to the apostles and do not have the Eucharist cannot be called “Churches” in the proper sense, these communities are joined to the Church by baptism and still participate in the mystery of salvation through elements of the Church found outside the visible boundaries.
While non-Catholic Christians may not agree with the document’s assertions, [NB: Pope Benedict believes the Church has a right to her own document and language about it, and has the right to express them in the public square. We must reroot our identity in our tradition and teaching if we are going to know who we are. Only by knowing who we are can we contribute to and shape the world around us.] some have noted that honesty and clarity is favorable to fruitful dialogue between the Church and other Christian communities. The Catholic Church’s differences with many Christian communities are closely associated with the Eucharist, which is dependent on the sacramental priesthood and apostolic succession. Interestingly, at the same time, the Eucharist is also the foundation of the Church’s unity. As the “source and summit” of our life and mission, the Eucharist is indispensable to the identity of the Church, to which all are ultimately called. Indeed, both the Second Vatican Council and Pope John Paul II’s 1995 Encyclical “Ut unum sint” declared that non-Catholic Christians are oriented towards “a complete incorporation into the system of salvation such as Christ Himself willed it to be, and finally, towards a complete participation in Eucharistic communion.”
This one Eucharist of the one Catholic Church is also at the heart of the much anticipated letter by the Holy Father, issued July, 7, called “Summorum Pontificum.” In the letter, he widened permission for the celebration of the Mass according to the Missal of 1962 – as well as for the celebration of other sacraments according to that Missal. [Probably "Ritual" and "Pontifical" are probably intended here.] The pope explains that the liturgy as it is commonly celebrated today will remain the “ordinary form” of the Latin Rite, while at the same time giving greater honor [a positive framing of the question through a careful choice of vocabulary] to the “extraordinary form” of the Rite – that is, as it was celebrated before 1970, with only minor changes from the Sixteenth Century onward. Whereas Pope John Paul II encouraged bishops to generously respond when groups of the faithful asked permission to celebrate the extraordinary form, the new guidelines allow capable priests to celebrate it without first seeking permission from their bishop.
In his letter and an accompanying explanatory note, Pope Benedict provides some important distinctions and principles regarding the celebration of the earlier Roman Missal. First, he makes it clear that this does not detract from the authority of the Second Vatican Council and the liturgical reform that followed. The pope clearly explains that the current Missal must be seen as authoritative and remains the “ordinary form” of the one Rite. At the same time, he explains, there is no contradiction in affirming the value of the Missal of 1962. It was never abolished and “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.” Furthermore, he says, this is not likely to cause divisions within parish communities, but rather is meant to provide “an interior reconciliation at the heart of the Church.”
Just as the document on the Church simply clarifies what the Catholic Church teaches about herself, the pope’s new apostolic letter simply clarifies guidelines about how the Church is to regard and celebrate the liturgy. With regard to the extraordinary form of the Mass, very little will likely change in this diocese […] after the new guidelines go into effect Sept. 14. Parishes will continue to celebrate the Mass as you know it. And already, I have freely granted permission in this diocese […] where there have been requests to celebrate Mass according to the old Missal, provided the priest has adequate liturgical formation and knowledge of Latin. In short, on a practical level, neither document changes much nor should come as a surprise, but they do help to clarify the importance of the Eucharistic mystery at the heart of the Church.
Note in that last paragraph two elements of what I call The Party Line, namely, "Not many people want that! This won’t make any difference! We are already doing enough for these people!" Did you catch them? "…little will likely change…" and "… already, I have freely granted…". Perhaps that "freely" make the difference?
In this case, because of the tone of the statement, while the bishop says things that are similar to The Party Line, they just don’t leave me with the feeling of being given the brush off. The letter was respectful in tone and in presentation of the facts. It treats the reader as important and intelligent. The bishop makes distinctions. There is an old Latin adage, Qui distinguit, bene docet… He teaches well who makes distinctions." Frankly, other bishops and statements present those same two elements but you get an entirely different sense.