Archbishop of Seattle’s elegantly harsh stand on the Motu Proprio

The Archbishop of Seattle, Most Reverend Alex J Brunett, made a statement about the implementation of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum

The letter was addressed to priests.

What follows starts as a very smart, very theological approach to the Motu Proprio.  In the end it winds up being less about theology than authority.

My emphases and comments.

August 10, 2007

Dear Father:

Worship of God "for the praise and glory of his name," as well as ”for the good of all the Church opens us to communion with Christ." These references from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal are specifically cited in the opening of Pope Benedict XVI’s recent motu proprio titled Summorum Pontificum. This same liturgical theology also forms the basis of the Holy Father’s accompanying letter sent with the motu proprio to me and my brother bishops.

Both the motu proprio and the accompanying letter regard the use of Pope John XXIII’s publication of the 1962 Roman Missal. Because of the importance of these documents, I want to write you directly and share with you my own thoughts and reflections.

When I became bishop, I selected the motto, "Bread of Life, Sign of Faith," because it not only reflected my own personal and academic passion for reverent celebration of the sacraments but the deep desire I have to engage in the liturgical renewal of the Church, [His Excellency establishes is guiding principle, "liturgical renewal".  We shall see if the Motu Proprio fits his vision.] which has been such an important part of my many years as priest and bishop.

This is why I was heartened to read the manner in which the Holy Father cites the reverence and gratitude of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, for the Church’s efforts at liturgical renewal:

"…the Second Vatican Council expressed the desire that with due respect and reverence for divine worship it be restored and adapted to the needs of our age."  [The theme of "our age" is introduced.]

As the Second Vatican Council in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Article 1 states:

"The Sacred Council has several aims in view: it desires to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful [Is that in fact what we got?]; to adapt more suitable to the needs of our own time [Again, the "our age" theme.] those institutions that are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all people in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of humanity into the household of the Church."

At the same time, the Church’s rule of prayer (lex orandi) is a witness to unchanged faith and unbroken tradition regardless of the introduction of new liturgical practices flowing from the renewal of the Second Vatican Council. [At this point we must consider the use of the word renewal.  There were changes or "renewals", as they are sometimes called of the liturgy after the Council.  However, did these changes truly result in renewal in the Church?   It is very often the case that people simply accept the word "renewal" without further consideration of whether there really was a renewal.  I don’t know how many times I have read statements of higher ups claiming that "no doubt, the ‘renewal’ of the liturgy and Church after the Council is a great success.  We would need to ask some hard questions about this statement, based in part on statistics.]  This is why the motu proprio is so rich in references to the spiritual Fathers of the Church as well as the previous pontiffs who have promulgated various editions of the Roman Missal through Church history.

Because of Pope Benedict XVI’s attention to a theology of communio, [Okay, now we have another idea.  "communio" instantly raises the "smartness", or "intellectual force" of this letter.  You could write many treatises  on this term, used in ecclesiology, or the study and theology of who and what the Church is.  Suffice to say that "communio" is used by Joseph Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar to describe the Second Vatican Council’s ecclesiology.  It was a dear enough concept Ratzinger that he helped found an international journal with that as it’s title.  "communio" describes, among other things, the goal of the Church’s life, along with its source: relationship of the Persons of the Trinity and our relationship with them opened to use through the Sacrifice and Resurrection of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.  From this starting point, there is room for many different expressions of Christian life in the Church, provided they have the same goal and source.  Contrary to communio is an attitude of "you are like me, or you are not in communion with me", an "either…or" approach to life in the Church (with due limits, of course).] his motu proprio both builds from prior documents from the Holy See on the liturgical renewal [there it is again] and expresses a pastoral concern toward those who have a continuing attachment to the Tridentine Mass.

The same is true in his apostolic letter to the bishops that accompanies this motu proprio, The Holy Father wants to deepen our Church’s communio by providing hospitality [His Excellency has chosen a very "theological" starting point for this statement.  He is working from "renewal" and "communion" and the "in our time".  However, the introduction of hospitality creates a crack in his foundation.  It is one thing to open the door in "welcome" and another to open it in "hospitality". You give "hospitality" to "outsiders".   Read on.] not only to those who embrace the liturgical renewal, but to those whose spirituality may need to be nurtured by the prior 1962 Roman Missal published by Pope John XXIII.  [In other words, those who need "hospitality" in our communio, who need to be brought in from outside, who don’t embrace renewal.]

Liturgical communio [The next logical move.] is best established, according to the Holy Father, when we see both the 1962 Roman Missal published by Pope John XXIII and[not "either… or"] the Missal of Pope Paul VI as two expressions of the same liturgical tradition published during the time of the Second Vatican Council. [Actually, this is an interesting insight: the older Missal was published just as the Council was to start while the newer Missal was effectively a rapid product of that Council.  They are both Missals of the Council, in a sense.  And since the way we pray has a reciprocal relationship with what we beleive (lex orandi, lex credendi, it is entirely reasonable that the two Missals should be in harmony provided that there content is in continuity and not rupture.] As our Holy Father so clearly noted in his motu proprio:

"The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is to be regarded as the ordinary expression of the law of prayer (lex orandi) of the Catholic Church of the Latin Rite, while the Roman Missal promulgated by St. Pius V and published again by Blessed John XXIII as the extraordinary expression of the law of prayer (lex orandi) and on account of its venerable and ancient use let it enjoy due honor."

The Holy Father deliberately names the 1962 Roman. Missal published by Pope John XXIII as an "extraordinary" expression and the renewed [there it is again… remember… the writer wants you to accept this word automatically as meaning something superior to the what there was before the "renewal"] liturgy we currently experience in our parishes as the "ordinary" expression. These two expressions are not meant to compete with each other, but rather to complement each other.  [Fine.  Not "either… or".]

As Archbishop, I am grateful for the sense of communio we established [What went before was actually pretty good.  Here, however, I get the sense that the word "communio" has turned into a buzz word, or rather, has drifted away from the meaning of communio above.  We’ll see.] last year during our extensive consultation and review of the recently promulgated sacramental and liturgical policies here in the Archdiocese of Seattle. I believe this work provides the basis for us to turn our attention and consider ways of working together with this latest motu proprio of the Holy Father. I depend on you and your collaborative efforts to make implementation of this motu proprio a spiritually enriching experience for our local Church.

In receiving this recent motu proprio , I would like to outline for you briefly how we will be working together. [Wait… it is supposed to be "collaborative" effort.  Now he will say exactly what that will be.]

  • September 20th and 21st I will be meeting with the Presbyteral Council in an overnight retreat format. We had already selected the theme of "Catholic Identity" [Stepping outside this statement for a moment, I have been contending mightily on this blog, in the paper I write for, and in the international press that Summorum Pontificum is part of the Holy Father’s project to reinvigorate Catholic identity by properly rerroting it in tradition so that the Church can be renewed from within and then be more vital in the world.] as a way of looking at our sacramental celebrations, especially matrimony. Because we selected the topic of "Catholic Identity," it will be especially timely to discuss with the Presbyteral Council the implementation of this current motu proprio. I invite you to speak with your deans prior to their overnight retreat so that they will be able to voice your insights on implementation[hmmm… ]
  • I am asking you to save the date of November 9th when our fall business meeting of the entire presbyterate will be scheduled. Based on the fruits of our discernment during the September’s Presbyteral Council retreat, I hope to present some helpful [!] guidelines regarding the use of the 1962 Roman Missal for the Archdiocese of Seattle.
  • Several months ago, I met with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, which already has offered some assistance to our local Church on this matter. I will be working with the Presbyteral Council on how best to respond to their gracious offer of ministry.  [Darn.  I always hope that bishops seek to build their projects from within the presbyterate.  I don’t have anything against the FSSP, which I esteem.  They undoubtedly could be helpful in many ways.  However, I think that diocesan priests should be first and foremost the point men in parishes.  This is part of my position, held for years, that a priest shouldn’t have to join a "different" group in order to do what is his right to do.]

While the provisions of this motu proprio take effect on September 14th of this year, I want to make sure that all proper procedures are in place so as to avoid confusion among the faithful and unnecessary complexity for our parishes already committed to the "ordinary" celebration of Eucharist. This is in keeping with the explicit instruction of the Holy Father regarding the role of the bishop.  [Okay!  Here we go!  Before anything, in this paean to communio he comes back to his own authority.]

"Nothing is taken away, then, from the authority of the Bishop, whose role remains that of being watchful that all is done in peace and serenity. Should some problem arise which the parish priest cannot resolve, the local Ordinary will always be able to intervene, in full harmony, however, with all that has been laid down by the new norms of the Motu Proprio."  [Notice, however, that in what is cited it is really the parish priest, the pastor, who is the main issue and the bishop should be there to "intervene in harmony" with the Motu Proprio.]

Based on my responsibilities as Archbishop and in the spirit of communio, I am requesting you to observe [Do these las two statements seem a little strange, now?] the following points regarding public celebrations of the 1962 Roman Missal published by Pope John XXIII:

  • During this time of reflection and planning, [Ehem…. not if that time of reflection and planning stretches beyond 14 September when the universal law of the Church changes.  But above we read that there is to be a meeting on 9 November.  I wonder how this will work.] I remind you that the current Archdiocesan pastoral and sacramental policies regarding the 1962 Roman Missal remain in place (See EU 41-42).  [What does EU 42 say:  "EU 42. The Tridentine Mass should be celebrated only in a place designated by the Archbishop. Only a priest specifically authorized by the Archbishop may celebrate this liturgy."  On 14 September, necessarily, this ought no longer apply as it will be contrary to the Church’s law in Summorum Pontificum.]
  • As the moderator and guardian of the liturgical life of our local Church, I will be determining the level of liturgical and linguistic competency [This is the "Trautman Loop Hole".  Like Bp. Trautman, I suppose he will give a test?  Remember that no matter what anyone says, the qualification asked for in Summorum Pontificum is that the priest be idoneus, which is minimum ability, not expertise. ] required by priests who wish to celebrate this extraordinary form publicly. I also will be consulting the Presbyteral Council, the Archdiocesan Liturgy Commission and others with appropriate expertise to determine the process for evaluating competency.  [Will they at the same time evaluate the competency of priests using the Novus Ordo?]
  • In answering questions of parishioners, you may wish to note that the 1962 Roman Missal is an extraordinary form and, therefore, should never replace a currently scheduled ordinary celebration of the Eucharist in your parish. [I don’t think Summorum Pontificum says this.  However, bishops can micromanage the schedules of their parishes any way they want, I guess.]
  • Celebrating three or more Masses on a Sunday requires my permission (See EU 5). [Aha!  The old "Trination Defense"!  This must be one of the most frequently ignored canons in the book when it comes to "pastoral need".  Priests everywhere are saying more than three Masses when necessary.  But when this might be useful to restrict people who want the older form, the law must be applied to the letter.] This Archdiocesan policy is based on both liturgical norms and canon law (CIC, c. 905 §2). This means that once I have consulted with the Presbyteral Council, I will carefully consider the manner, schedule and location of these extraordinary Masses, [Remember,according to Summorum Pontificum the pastors are the ones who make that determination in their parishes.] especially in light of the Hispanic pastoral plan [?] as well as the many other pressing pastoral needs for the ordinary celebration of the Eucharist in our Archdiocese.  [I see.  Is this anything other than, "Hey you!  "Tridentine" guy!  GET TO THE BACK OF THE BUS WHERE YOU BELONG!]

I wish to close by emphasizing the words of the Second Vatican Council.  [Okay… back to this, are we?]

"Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full conscious, and active participation [Again, this is an implication that the "unrenewed" are not really participating, but we have yawned over this one before, so I will leave it be. ] in liturgical celebrations called for by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism" (CLS Art. 14).

As priest celebrants of the liturgy, [hang on… which includes, in a harmonius communio sort of way the OLDER form of Mass] we must be imbued by its spirit, formed and educated by its precepts, [Including the precepts of Summorum Pontificum?] and in deep love with the Church.

"In the reform and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people [Again?] is the aim to be considered before all else. For it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors must zealously strive to achieve such participation by means of the necessary instruction. Yet it would be futile to entertain any hopes of realizing this unless in the first place the pastors themselves, become thoroughly imbued with the Spirit and power of the liturgy, and make themselves its teachers" (CSL Art. 14).

I am deeply grateful to all of you for undertaking the challenge of the Second Vatican Council and its continuing expression in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum as we deepen our sense of communio[I am sorry, but at the end, this rings a bit hollow now.]

With warmest personal regards and wishes, I remain

Fraternally yours in Christ,

Most Rev. Alex J. Brunett
Archbishop of Seattle

I must from prudence leave comments off.

A final serious caveat:

I think we must permit room to take His Excellency at his word and that he truly is dedicated to the sort of communio he invokes and that he really does see the Second Vatican Council "expressed in the Motu Proprio" to paraphrase him only slightly from the end of his remarks. 

When all is said and done, may this extremely guarded and, under the surface, cold reception of the Motu Proprio will melt into a warmer embrace. 

I hope the position there will be one of sincere welcome, rather than tolerance of an outsider we have to admit to our house because communio says we do.

I hope the priests of the diocese and the people there are very careful and prudent in what they do as of 14 September so that things don’t become difficult for everyone.

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