Today canonist Ed Peters provides some helpful notes (HERE) about something His Holiness of Our Lord said the other day about the liturgical reform after Vatican II being irreversible. Pope Francis seemed in invoke the Magisterium.
Peters explains what sorts of things are the subjects of magisterial teaching, which things can be considered “irreversible”.
When I read that, I scratched my head a little. First, no one denies that there was a liturgical movement in the 20th century which lead to the Council Fathers approving Sacrosanctum Concilium. No one denies that, after SC there were massive changes to the Church’s worship and that those changes produced effects which are “irreversible”. After all, they happened and they had there inevitable effect. However, in the life of the Church there are movements and there can be counter-movements. This has always been the way of things over the centuries. So, I am not sure how a particular direction of liturgical reform can be called “irreversible” and how such a declaration can carry such authority that the faithful are somehow bound to believe or hold it. In any event, Dr. Peters provides points of consideration.
Friends, this is enormously helpful. Here is part of it:
Examples of infallible assertions that must be believed(credenda) are the points in the Creed, the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Our Lady, the foundation of the Church by Christ, the precise number of sacraments, and so on. Examples of infallible assertions that must be held(tenenda) are canonizations, determinations as to which councils should be deemed “ecumenical”, the invalidity of Anglican orders, and so on. While infallible assertions demanding belief and infallible assertions demanding definitive retention are distinguishable from each other, their very close connections are equally obvious. As a result, among the many, many things that the Church asserts with various degrees of authority, relatively few are recognized as being asserted with certainty and, in that regard, as being irreversible. See 1983 CIC 749 § 3 and CDF’s 1998 “Doctrinal commentary on Ad tuendam fidem”. But while it is fairly easy to spot matters of belief infallibly asserted (so-called “primary objects” of infallibility), matters requiring definitive retention (so called “secondary objects” of infallibility) are trickier to assess.
To offer some negative examples, the Church would never declare infallibly that the sun rose in Ann Arbor today at 6:54 AM local time—even though the assertion is true—because such an assertion is not divinely revealed nor is it necessary to defend or expound the deposit of faith; [And there were, in fact, reforms to the Roman Rite after Vatican II.] she would never affirm with certainty that St. Peter’s Basilica is the most beautiful church in the world because such an assertion is not divinely revealed nor is it necessary to defend or expound the deposit of faith (not to mention it being difficult to assign the notion of “most” to any judgment about the beautiful); [Some people think the reforms were great, and some don’t.] and she would never affirm with certainty and magisterial authority that the New Evangelization is “irreversible” because such an assertion is not divinely revealed nor is it necessary to defend or expound the deposit of faith (not to mention that the New Evangelization is a phenomenon that does not admit of easy categorization and is in part a response to its times). [Maybe there will be a New Evangelization, and maybe not.]
And so I think it can be confusing to the faithful for any prelate to “affirm with certainty” and/or with “magisterial authority” that liturgical reform is “irreversible” precisely because such language connotes in Catholic minds the exercise of a charism given not to underscore the importance of what is being asserted, but rather, to identify certainly and without error [NB] either what is divinely revealed and thus to be believed or what is required to safeguard reverently the deposit of faith and thus to be definitely held. [And neither matters of the liturgical reforms after Vatican II nor even the content of SC are in that category.]
To repeat, with Pius XII, Vatican II, St. John Paul II, and doubtless with Francis, a faithful Catholic may regard liturgical reform (properly understood, and apart from the travesties committed in its name) as springing from a movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church; [which could be… or not…] but whether it is prudent for any pope, in virtue of his “magisterial authority”, to “affirm with certainty”, that such reforms (whatever exactly those are) are “irreversible” (whatever exactly that means here) is, I think, a different issue.
I found this helpful.
It is, by the way, time for a good book which deals with levels of authority of various documents, etc.
It seems to me that, slowly but surely, we will know whether or not the post-Conciliar reform will bear good fruits and whether or not “the people”, whom the Holy Father invoked, will go with along with it. Benedict XVI recognized that there are powerful forces in the Church when it comes to worship. There has always been a slow and organic development of our liturgical worship. When you tinker with that and impose massive changes suddenly, you disrupt the very life of the Church down to the last member. So, by bringing back to the fore the traditional liturgical reforms, Benedict sought to, so to speak, graft together the artificially created post-Conciliar forms with what the Church had done for centuries… and in a way that Council Fathers would recognize as sound. Remember that the Council Fathers in SC mandated that no changes be made unless they were for the good of the Church and that no changes be made that are not in keeping with previous liturgical forms. However, both of those mandates were severely violated in what was eventually produced in the name of the Council.
When there is a wound, steps must be take to heal it. What happened after the Council produced a wound. Benedict took steps to heal it.
What Benedict did, however, didn’t “mar” the post-Conciliar reforms. Neither did he “mar” the traditional forms. When they are placed side-by-side in an irenic way, they will, assuredly, influence each other in a “mutual enrichment”, what I call a “gravitational pull”.
Precisely the things that Francis spoke of to those Italian (shudder) liturgists, are precisely the things that are happening where the traditional form is in place in a healthy way. People are participating at Holy Mass with exactly the sort of full, conscious and actual/active participation to which the Council Fathers aspired in Sacrosanctum Concilium. It’s obvious. That, in fact, is a result of, first, the lack of availability of the traditional forms for so long and b) an insight gained from the use of the Novus Ordo, even when abused and not used properly. The “mutual enrichment” is taking place. And this is inexorable…even “irreversible”. The only way to reverse it would be to abolish suddenly one of the two forms. But that isn’t going to work, in my opinion. The older form is back. As Cardinal Sarah mentioned no long ago, it is now a modern and post-Conciliar form as well.
I don’t see what happening now as being irreversible. It is producing great benefits and I think that people will want it and seek it no matter what.