All day long people have been filling my email with requests for me to react to the opinions of His Excellency, nay rather, His Grace, Mario Conti, Archbishop of Glasgow, who has spoken about the Holy Father’s provisions in Summorum Pontificum.
In 2007 His Grace showed that he didn’t care much for Summorum Pontificum (SP). It is hard to know why we should expect him to have changed his mind over the last four years. Why would His Grace like the Holy Father’s law for the Latin Church any better now that Universae Ecclesiae (UE) has been issued?
How do I say this politely…. at 77, and after so many years of service, I guess he is entitled to his opinion.
Archbp. Conti wrote in his Ad Clerum (“To the Clergy”) letter to to the priests and religious of the Archdiocese of Glasgow:
However, even with the most recent instruction from Ecclesia Dei, there is no requirement or indeed encouragement for any of us to promote the so called Extraordinary Form. I venture to suggest that there is no call for it, or pastoral reason to change what has become the settled practice of the Archdiocese,….
While he may be right that there is “no requirement” in SP or UE to “promote” the Extraordinary Form, there actually is a requirement in SP and UE to make it available when there is a request for it from the People of God.
But Archbp. Conti says that there is no interest in the older Mass in Glasgow.
I guess we have to take his word on that. There are no requests from any of the people of God for the older Mass there. Not a single priest is interested in it either. And there better not be any interest, either. This is “settled practice”.
It may be that what we have here is an example of “special pleading”.
As my friend Fr. Finigan mentioned on his fine blog, “I wonder why it should be necessary to warn priests so sternly against the usus antiquior if there is in fact “no call for it.”
If there is no requirement to “promote” the older form, UE 8.A makes it clearer than it was before that SP does “encourage” interest in and the use of the older form. Reflect on this for a moment:
The Motu Proprio manifests his solicitude as Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church, and has the aim of:
a. offering to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, considered as a precious treasure to be preserved;
I can understand that some priests and bishops of a certain age, 77 for example, don’t like the older form of liturgy. But do they have to run it down? Publicly run it down?
The Holy Father doesn’t run it down.
His Grace, 77, who has the right to his opinion, seems to explain why he doesn’t like the older form of Mass. He offered this, still in his Ad Clerum letter to the priests of Glasgow:
I now speak frankly, a difference between mysterious and mystery. The mystery of the Mass is, to the wonderment of the priest and people, the presence of God in the sacrificial offering of the Body and Blood of His Son’s humanity, effective through the ministry of those called to be priests, ministering at the altar where the gifts of the faithful of bread and wine are laid. The awesomeness of the holy exchange can be manifested in the way in which we celebrate the Mass, avoiding all that could trivialise the sacred, without any extravagant gestures, but on the contrary taking advantage of the rich potential within the rites themselves to enhance the significance of what we do by way of the dignity of our actions, the singing of those parts of the Mass which are marked for song and wearing vestments of noble simplicity.
Since this is in a letter to priests, I cannot help but wonder how His Grace would view priests who see the Extraordinary Form of Mass as a precious treasure, something sacred, something for all the Catholic faithful.
Then there is this point of “mystery” in His Grace’s letter.
When it comes to experiencing mystery and awesomeness in the liturgical action, I – and I am speaking for myself – I have to experience them through outward signs, symbols, gestures, etc. I am just a man, and not terribly gifted when it comes to the category of mystery. I need all the help I can get. After all, when it comes to the transcendent, MYSTERY, I’m just a crackit gaberlunzie and a puir slow-witted gowk.
Again, speaking only for myself, I believe that an opportunity to encounter mystery deserves the most extravagant gestures and symbols we can provide. That doesn’t mean circus clown stuff. The rubrics themselves, of both rites, provide parameters for what is extravagant. Go outside the rubrics, and you run the risk of extravagance in the wrong sense. The severity of the traditional form of the Roman Rite provides the paradigm for the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. The older form militates against the sort of extravagance that runs counter to the Roman Rite. Could using both forms of the Roman Rite, according to their respective rubrics, be inappropriate?
Moreover, it seems to me that the Holy Father himself is pointing us towards many of those elements whereby we can encounter mystery, “awesomeness”, as His Grace puts it. The Holy Father doesn’t seem to think that the Extraordinary Form is an inadequate means of worship for the people of God. I suspect the Holy Father thinks that one can encounter mystery in the Extraordinary Form.
However, some people are so enlightened that they experience the awesomeness without the trivializing extravagance and gestures. Like angels, they grasp the essence of things in themselves without sensible signs, or pesky composing and dividing in their intellects. Other people, well… they don’t know what mystery is. They’re stuck on the “mysterious”, extravagance gestures… well….
In any event, if he wants to show himself self to be out of step with the Vicar of Christ, His Grace, now 77 years of age, is entitled to speak his mind after all these years of service to the Church. We are entitled to disagree and, nevertheless, make full use of the provisions of Summorum Pontificum whether he likes them or not.
The Holy Father has also spoken his mind in the provisions of Summorum Pontificum.