Mickens of The Pill K.O.’s “Universae Ecclesiae”!

Robert Mickens of The Pill (aka The Tablet aka RU486), found something really wrong with Universae Ecclesiae, something truly disturbing.

Some puir slow-witted gowk in the CDF or Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” screwed up the title or “incipit” of the Instruction on Summorum Pontificum entitled Universae Ecclesiae!

I can hardly bring myself to write, so struck am I with confusion.  Just read:

Someone at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) seems to have slipped up. Or perhaps it was an official at the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (PCED), which Pope Benedict XVI connected to the doctrinal office a few years back.

It would appear that no one in either office checked the index of names of Vatican documents – not even those issued relatively recently. If they had, they would not have called the new PCED “instruction” Universae Ecclesiae (UE).  [Well! There it is.  That's the knock out punch, isn't it?]

Vatican documents are usually named for the first couple of words in the opening line of the official Latin text and John Paul II issued a document back in 1984 with that same name. Yes, Universae Ecclesiae (or perhaps we should we now call it UE-I) is the title of an apostolic letter the late Pope issued on 6 May of that year to mark the canonisation of the 103 Korean Martyrs. It is quite surprising that this could have slipped the attention of the PCED officials, especially since apostolic letters of the popes carry greater authority than instructions issued by commissions.

But there is a simple way to save face and try to make a clearer distinction between the two texts in the future – just add the third word of each document’s opening sentence to their respective titles. The new instruction would thus be referred to as Universae Ecclesiae Litterae (UEL), whereas the 1984 apostolic letter would be known as Universae Ecclesiae Gaudium (UEG). It’s not the most elegant solution, but it would bring clarity. [I'd be satisfied with the clarity resulting from people reading it and following it. But there's more...] This probably could have been avoided in the first place if other Vatican departments had been given an opportunity to see the new PCED instruction before it was issued. [Think about that.] But this does not usually happen with documents issued by the commission or the CDF.

The problem is, there is no rule that an incipit cannot be repeated in another document.  It happens now and then and it is no big deal.

A rapid glance at the index of documents in Denzinger-Schoenmetzer reveals this:

  • Benedictus Deus: used by both Benedict XII and Pius IV
  • Consideranti mihi: Gregory I, Agatho
  • Cum sicut accepimus: Pius II, Innocent XI
  • Ex parte tua: Innocent III used it twice
  • Humani generis: Pelagius I, Pius XII
  • Inter ea quae: Hormisdas twice
  • Pastoralis officii: Clement XI, Leo XIII
  • Regimini universalis: Martin V, Callixtus III
  • Romanus Pontifex: Pius V, Paul V
  • Ubi primum: Benedict XIV, Leo XII, Pius IX twice
  • Universi dominici gregis: Gregory XV, Clement XI… Bl. John Paul II.
  • Vas electionis: Pelagius I, John XXII

Et cetera.

The Third-Word-In-The-Sentence Solution is why the 1988 Motu Proprio is sometimes called Ecclesia Dei adflicta: there are heaps of old documents starting with Ecclesia Dei.  Another reason is that many people like to underscore that the Church has been afflicted with something.  Sometimes titles point to the purpose of the document.  The title of this Instruction drives home an important point.  The provisions of Summorum Pontificum are for the whole Church.  Not just part.

In any event, we shall see if Mickens, a Third Worder, takes his own advice.

If he doesn’t, contemplate the mayhem his articles will cause among readers of The Tablet!  Every time the 2011 Instruction is mentioned without the Third Word, readers will instantly confuse it with the document about the Korean Martyrs!

After all, whenever I read the words Humani generis I think of Pelagius I’s 557 letter to King Childebert.  Don’t you?

Maybe we should add a Fourth Word… just to be sure?  A copy of the Instruction with the Fourth Word could be kept for consultation in the archive of the the CDF.

Adding a third word to differentiate it is as harmless as it is unnecessary.  Third Word it, don’t Third Word it.  I suspect for the near future, people will get which document we are talking about.

But think about Micken’s other solution, the Wider-Consultation SolutionMore offices of the Roman Curia should have had a chance to review the Instruction.  That would have solved the confusion of the Instruction’s title, right?  No…. that would have been a good way either to kill the Instruction, or screw it up so badly that it had no meaning by the time it was issued.

Finally, we must ask:

When did The Tablet and Robert Micken’s take a stand against recycling?

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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12 Responses to Mickens of The Pill K.O.’s “Universae Ecclesiae”!

  1. Gregory DiPippo says:

    How about a letter addressing the comments and critiques of people like Mickens, who apparently has doubts about the validity of Summorum Pontificum? It could be titled “Ignorantia nebulonum”.

  2. dans0622 says:

    You can add another “Universi dominici gregis” by John Paul II.

  3. Ezra says:

    Bobbie may be on to something here, but I think his recommendation too timid. Given the dreadful confusion likely to be caused by referring to Universae Ecclesiae by its two word incipit, and given that even three words might not suffice to distinguish it from future documents whose authors may wish to open with the words “Universae Ecclesiae Litterae”, the elegant solution would be for The Tablet and other periodicals with easily-befuddled readers to make a point of publishing the document in full every time they refer to it. That would surely clear up the problem.

  4. Henry Edwards says:

    The provisions of Summorum Pontificum are for the whole Church. Not just part.

    I suspect that this (rather than its official title) is Mr. Mickens’ real problem with the Instruction.

  5. catholicmidwest says:

    Well, you know, if this is the only thing he can complain about we’re doing pretty well here with this document. This is next to speechless for a journalist.

  6. maskaggs says:

    I wonder why he didn’t just publish the last two sentences. Seems to be the only thing with which he’s actually concerned.

  7. SimonDodd says:

    Clutching at straws. Isn’t the Tablet embarrassed to print this kind of meaningless nitpicking? Mickens must think his readers have the intellectual capacity of a brick if he doesn’t think, as F.r Z alludes to, context (not to mention a parenthetical year) will resolve almost any ambiguity.

  8. EWTN Rocks says:

    The statement, “This probably could have been avoided in the first place if other Vatican departments had been given an opportunity to see the new PCED instruction before it was issued” makes it clear (at least to me) the error was a result of miscommunication. [Ummm... it wasn't an "error". Read the top entry again.] There is something to be said for non-email (e.g. face-to-face, telephone, etc.) discussion to talk through and resolve issues, or at a minimum, make sure everyone is on the same page. With enhanced dialogue, it seems errors are less likely to occur. [Okay.. you are joking... I got it.]

  9. But think about Micken’s other solution, the Wider-Consultation Solution. More offices of the Roman Curia should have had a chance to review the Instruction. That would have solved the confusion of the Instruction’s title, right? No…. that would have been a good way either to kill the Instruction, or screw it up so badly that it had no meaning by the time it was issued.

    Precisely.

  10. Tony Layne says:

    Then there’s Sicut Judaeis — St. Gregory the Great, Callixtus II or Gregory X?

  11. Glen M says:

    This is fantastic! If the ‘progressive element’ is suddenly getting picky about such things the greater good will be served. Maybe this writer will now dig up such phrases as ‘Latin is to be retained’ and the pipe organ is to have ‘pride of place’ in out churches. Heck, he might even read Pope Paul’s CITH Indult and realize it only applied to a few countries like Belgium.

  12. James Joseph says:

    It’s a funny thing you all talked about this today…

    …I actually recently started teaching ABC’s to toddlers, but they were utterly confounded, because of all the auto-repair shops and hair-salons of a similiar monicker; that is, until I clarified their venerable title, adding a fourth letter. The boys and girls are doing splendidly now and have almost memorized them up to the letter K. (Now I have to explain why the difference between the letters I and J)

    They are now known as the ABCD’s… an official act of Congress is pending.