Now that the intense days of Holy Week have passed and I have begun to catch up on my backlog, I have had some time to review a few back copies of the publication Mass of Ages, which the kind folks at the Latin Mass Society sent for my inspection.
In the November 2007 issue, there is an interesting piece by my friend Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro. It is also online.
The article touches on some points of recent discussion here at WDTPRS, for example, whether Communion in the hand is permissible at celebrations of the TLM.
Let have a gander with my emphases and comments.
The Implementation of the Motu Proprio
Writing from Rome, Mgr Ignacio Barreiro analyses the ideological objections to the Holy Father’s historic Motu Proprio and anticipates firm action by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei to support the Holy Father’s will.
We have witnessed different reactions among bishops, groups of bishops or individuals who have publicly commented on this fundamental new law of the Church. Some of these reactions have been very positive and encouraging, others have been restrictive and erroneous. I am not surprised at this problematic interpretation; many of us predicted that the implementation of the Apostolic Letter, Summorum Pontificum of 7 July 2007 was not going to be easy. [That’s for sure!]
A very positive development that needs to be noticed is the appointment of Mgr Guido Marini of the Archdiocese of Genoa, as Master of the Pontifical Liturgical Ceremonies. Monsignor Marini, even if he is relatively young at 42, has a very impressive curriculum vitae as a master of ceremonies, canonist and spiritual director. Most of those who know him underline that he is a very serious and dedicated person. It is significant that in the comments he released after his nomination he underlined his admiration for the conservative Cardinal Giuseppe Siri.
Perhaps the most egregious attack on the Motu Proprio has come from Bishop Raffale Nogaro of Caserta near Naples. He is reported as having made very demeaning comments on the Traditional Liturgy of the Church to the leading Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera. This bishop has a reputation of being particularly ‘tolerant’ and embracing all sorts of liberal causes, but after the Motu Proprio he has adamantly refused to permit the public celebration of the Extraordinary Use of the Mass. In his reaction we have a perfect case of ‘asymmetry of indulgence’, [Excellent phrase!] which is not unknown in other prelates who share his attitude.
Trying to counter media rumours [ehem… It’s called "spin" … "damage control".] that some Italian bishops, members of the Permanent Council of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, had strongly criticised the Motu Proprio, Bishop Giuseppe Betori, Secretary General of the Conference, told the ZENIT news agency on 29 September that: “No Italian bishop is against the Motu Proprio; [Ho Ho!] if there is any bishop who refuses the application of the Motu Proprio, he is out of the line of the Italian Bishops’ Conference and even of…the Holy Father.” These comments can be interpreted at two levels; at their face value they are a denial that some members of the Permanent Council objected to the Motu Proprio, but they can also be interpreted as a warning to bishops like Bishop Nogaro who are ready to challenge the Motu Proprio.
Leaving aside the analysis of the concrete reactions of different bishops or individuals, it is useful to consider the substance of the various objections that have been presented against the Motu Proprio, and the different initiatives that have been put forward by bishops or groups of bishops to diminish the scope of application of this fundamental new law of the Church; this includes some erroneous legal interpretations.
Objections to the Motu Proprio
One of the most preposterous objections against the Motu Proprio is the claim that it is not yet in force because it has not been published in the Acta Apostolica Sedis (AAS), which is the official periodical of the Holy See. [This is now resolved.] This opinion clearly contradicts what is mandated in canon 8§1 of the Code of Canon Law, which, after setting the general principle that a law of the Church enters into force three months after publication in the AAS, establishes that a shorter or longer interval can be expressly prescribed in the new law itself. The Motu Proprio establishes that, “We order that everything We have decreed with these Apostolic Letters issued as Motu Proprio be considered as having full and lasting force, and to be observed from 14 September of this year, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, notwithstanding any provisions to the contrary.” So it is absolutely clear that this law entered into force on 14 September and we do not need to wait for the publication of the text in the AAS.
In the opinion of some commentators, such as Fr Paolo Farinella in his book, The Return to the Ancient Mass, the Motu Proprio is not acceptable because it reintroduces in the Church an ecclesiology that was left aside by the new ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council. They underline how in their opinion, each Missal is connected with a different type of ecclesiology. The principle that these authors are unable to demonstrate is that the Council introduced a new ecclesiology in the Church. To state that the ecclesiology of Vatican II is incompatible with the previous theology of the Church would be a form of the “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” that Benedict XVI denounced in his address to the Roman Curia of 22 December 2005. In the same address the Holy Father demonstrates how the constitution of the Church could not be altered by the Second Vatican Council due to the fact that it is unchangeable, because the “essential constitution of the Church comes from the Lord and was given to us so that we might attain eternal life.”
Erroneous views of the twenty-first Council of the Church were denounced by the then Cardinal Ratzinger when he stated: “The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of super dogma which takes away the importance of all the rest” (Address to the Bishops of Chile, July 1988).
Other critical reactions to the Motu Proprio are focused on the defence of the new lectionary and that the homily should be based on those readings. This can be seen in the brief book by Manlio Sodi, The Missal of Pius V – Why the Mass in Latin in the Third Millennium? or in comments by the Committee on the Liturgy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [headed then by H.E. Bp. Trautman] on the implementation of the Apostolic Letter, Summorum Pontificum. These criticisms are based on the contemporary assumption that the faithful benefit from the presentation of a wider selection of Scriptural passages [which to some makes Mass seem rather like a "didactic moment"] than that contained in the Missal of 1962, and that the homily of the Mass should refer mainly to the readings of the Mass. With regard to the use of a wider selection of readings it should be noted that many priests with long pastoral experience point out that few of the faithful, after participating in the Mass of Paul VI, have a clear and precise recollection of the four readings that are normally used on Sundays in this Mass. [Exactly!] With regard to the Sunday homily the code of Canon Law mandates that “the mysteries of the faith and rules of Christian living are to be expounded” (CCL 767). As a consequence, “A homily, therefore, need not necessarily be focused on the Gospel of the day” (Commentary on the Code by the University of Navarre).
Constraining the Motu Proprio
Some bishops have established stringent rules [This is the most troubling point.] as regards permitting priest to use the Missal of 1962. The Motu Proprio only states in art. 5§4 “Priests who use the Missal of Bl. John XXIII must be qualified to do so and not juridically impeded.” It would seem to any objective observer that to request a Latin test and a rubrical exam is to place an excessive requirement on priests. First, we should remember that in accordance with Canon 249 all the priests of the Latin Rite should be well versed in Latin. It should be the duty of bishops to verify that all priests have a sufficient command of Latin and not only those who desire to celebrate the Extraordinary Usage of the Church. [Exactly! That is why I so hammered at this point for months: they are establishing a punishing double-standard!] Second, these bishops are imposing a type of test that was never demanded by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei when it granted celebrets to offer the Mass in accordance with the Missal of 1962. It is obvious that a priest who offers this Mass has to be duly prepared. But most certainly any certification process, should be handled by persons who are more sympathetic to the Traditional Mass than many local bishops.
Some bishops have prohibited pastors from scheduling on their own initiative [thus micromanaging parishes] public Masses according to the Extraordinary Form. However, the Motu Proprio was promulgated fundamentally to preserve the liturgical treasury of the Church, so as a consequence, if a priest moved by a laudable pastoral zeal, and wishing to partake of this treasury with his flock desires to give to his people the benefit of the Traditional Liturgy, there is nothing in the Motu Proprio to impede him from doing so, indeed the general spirit of this law indicates that the Supreme Legislator would be pleased if a priest took an initiative of this nature. More serious is the prohibition of the scheduling of public Masses, even if a significant group of the faithful have requested them, without the permission of the bishop, which is a clear violation of the Motu Proprio. The letter of this law clearly gives pastors the faculty to decide without seeking permission from the Ordinary. Indeed, in accordance with the law, the bishop can intervene only when the pastor is not able to fulfil this right of the faithful. [And then to see that the people are able to have a Mass with the older Missal!]
Another restriction is to establish a fixed number as the minimum size of the group requesting the Mass. [This is the "stable group" problem, which is, of course, still a bad translation even though the Acta says "stabiliter" and not "continenter".] As is well known, the Supreme Legislator in promulgating the Motu Proprio did not want to establish a minimum number of persons and he has left the determination of that number to the common sense of the parish pastors.
Some bishops have ruled that the Extraordinary Form is not to be celebrated in any way during the Easter Triduum – from the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday through to Evening Prayer of Easter Sunday. This is clearly an erroneous interpretation. Article 2 of the Motu Proprio states precisely that a priest can celebrate Masses without the people on any day with the exception of the Easter Triduum. This clearly should be understood in the context that in neither of the liturgical usages are Masses without the people permitted during the Easter Triduum. The Missal of 1962 is very precise in its rubrics for Holy Thursday, forbidding the celebration of other Masses besides the solemn celebration of the evening Mass in Caena Domini. So there is no basis in law to state that the Easter Triduum cannot be celebrated in accordance with the Missal of 1962 in ceremonies with the presence of the people. [Exactly. And this is up to the pastor to decide.]
In these various episcopal interpretations we have a clear violation of the rights of the faithful in that we can perceive an evident restrictive intention. A bishop as a particular legislator does not have the legal authority to reduce the rights granted to the faithful by the Supreme and Universal legislator of the Church. [One of the most important principles of interpretation of canon law is that laws that grant rights or favors should be interpreted as favorably as possible and that laws which place restrictions must be interpreted very strictly, so as to favor people. The attitude shown by some bishops toward the Motu Proprio clearly violates this interpretive principle.]
Problems of interpretation
The opinion has been advanced [by me] that all the laws of the Church that regulated the use of the Missal and the Sacraments in 1962 have been derogated and the revival of the 1962 Missal does not automatically revive those legal norms. The shocking consequence of this interpretation is that altar girls and the reception of Communion in the hand would be a legal possibility in using this Missal. [That is my position.] This is clearly erroneous for at least six reasons. [Okay! Let’s find out what they are!]
 First, in the Motu Proprio we do not have a revival of a previous rite which had been derogated, but to the contrary, due to the explicit legally binding declaration contained in Article 1 of this law, we have the very strong affirmation that the Missal of 1962 had never been abrogated. As a consequence, all the norms that regulate the way in which it should be used, are now in force. The contrary opinion is not reasonable because it would mean that the Missal would be in existence without the necessary support of all the norms that regulate its use; it is tantamount to affirming that this Missal exists in a legal vacuum. It is abhorrent to any sane legal interpretation of any law to postulate that something should live in a legal vacuum. [A good argument. However, I am fully prepared to believe that that is indeed the case. There is, in fact, a vaccum!]
 Second, we have to consider the basic principle of legal interpretation that states that whoever wishes the principal also desires what is accessory. So if the Supreme Legislator of the Church has decreed that the Missal of 1962 has never been derogated, he is also stating explicitly [?] that all the norms that regulated that Missal were not derogated either. It is evident that the normative corpus that regulates the use of this Missal is an integral accessory to the Missal. [This is like reason #1. Perhaps the Holy Father’s clarificatory letter will help with this.]
 Third, this law like any other law of the Church has to be interpreted in accordance with the hermeneutic of continuity; in accordance with this interpretative criterion, it is evident that the laws that accompanied the Missal of 1962 at its promulgation, should guide its way now in the present. To propose that it is legally possible to have female altar servers or to give Communion in the hand when using the Missal of 1962 would be a clear case of the hermeneutic of discontinuity which, as I stated earlier, the Holy Father denounced in his address to the Roman Curia. [Well… okay. This is like reasons #2 and #3. But I don’t think this one is a juridical argument. This is a common sense point, with which I agree. There should not be altar girls or Communion in the had. However, I would say that about both uses of the Roman Rite. But in the meantime they are both tolerated as exceptions.]
 Fourth, we have to interpret this law like any other law with a spirit of coherence. It is co-natural with the Missal of 1962 that it is highly regulated in such a way that the celebrant of this Mass is always guided by precise and concrete norms and that nothing is left to the spirit of invention of the celebrant. So it is co-natural with the Motu Proprio that all the legal norms that regulated the 1962 Missal when it was issued, still regulate it now the use of this Missal has been declared to be the right of the faithful. [This seems rather like #3.]
 Fifth, the view that the legal apparatus that supported the 1962 Missal has been derogated is against the spirit of the Motu Proprio, which wishes to preserve the style that governed the celebration of the liturgy in accordance with the Missal of St Pius V and to restore a sense of respectful reverence to divine worship. It is evident that practices such as girl altar servers or Communion in the hand are alien to the spirit and style that preside over the celebration of the liturgy in accordance with the Missal of St Pius V. [As I said before, I am not favorable about either of those things for either of the expressions of the Roman Rite. However, they are still legally tolerated.]
 Sixth, the erroneous interpretations I have outlined above would be detrimental to one of the purposes of this law, which is to obtain a healing in the divisions that sadly affect the Church in our times. It is evident that such interpretations would not be accepted by different persons or groups (such as the Society of St Pius X) who are currently not in due canonical union with the Church. [I also agree with this wholeheartedly. However, this is another argument from common sense, and not really from law. I don’t think this settles anything.]
As I have shown, we are faced with various problems in the application of the Motu Proprio, but the common denominator is a desire not to fully implement this law for ideological reasons. In accordance with Summorum Pontificum it will be up to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei to establish ways and means to correct these problems. As a consequence, I can confirm that the Commission is now drafting an important document that will solve in an authoritative fashion these difficulties. I sincerely hope that this document will be promulgated soon and that those who oppose the application of the Motu Proprio will be brought to full compliance.
I highly admire my friend Msgr. Barreiro and hold his canonical expertise in esteem. However, I am not entirely convinced by his six reasons. The strongest of them, and the one I have to ponder a while, is the argument that whoever wishes the principal also desires what is accessory. It seems to me that we can’t just leap to the assumption that all those old decrees and so forth from the Sacred Congregation of Rites are all revived with Summorum Pontificum or that canons in the old Code are still in force, for example obliging women to wear chapel veils, etc.
The article was very interesting and thought provoking! Barreiro’s summation of objections was sound and helpful. We have examined all of them here on WDTPRS at one point or another.