Officers of Italian Bishops Conference on Summorum Pontificum

I know I am catching up with some dated news, but recently there was a bit of a debate about the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum among Italian bishops during a meeting of their conference (CEI): 17-19 September.  The CEI is a very powerful body in Italy, both in ecclesiastical and in secular terms.  Thus, the secretary general of the CEI, H.E. Giuseppe Betori (whom WDTPRS has highlighted before) has real clout.   Here is a note about Betori on the Motu Proprio from SIR (my translation and emphases):

The Italian bishops have with gratitude received the Pope’s Motu Proprio for the reintroduction of Mass in Latin under determined conditions": this is the thought of Bishop Bertori on one of the questions posed today during a press conference with journalists about the presumed differentiations among bishops over the reception of Benedict XVI’s document.  In this regard, the general secretary of the CEI said that "the bishops underscored the faithful and total application according to the spirit of the Motu Proprio, just as the Holy Father expressed in the accompanying letter."  "From the point of view of the bishops," he added, "this means simply applying it according to the mind of the Pope".  After having described certain speculations by journalists about the internal debate on this matter as "not factual either concerning the participants or the outcome", Bp. Bertori added that "there did not come from any bishop the possibility of an official intervention on the part of the CEI."

The intrepid president of the CEI H.E. Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa and recipient of death-threats, spoke of the Motu Prprio in his speech to the permanent council of the Conference on 17 September (my translation and emphases):

4. What the Pope urges us to adopt, beyond the cultural forces to which it is inevitably subject, is really an inclusive, not confrontational, key of interpretation. In the history of liturgy, as in the life of the Church, there is "growth and progress, but no rupture", as he already took the opportunity to affirm in an address to the Roman Curia on 22 December 2005. On that occasion, in fact, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, he indicated as valid not "the hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture", but rather that of "reform, of renewal in continuity with the one subject, the Church". In other words, solicitude for the unity of the Church "in space and time" is the motivating force ("la leva" – lever) which moves Benedict XVI, an interior dynamic of tension ("una tensione) which fundamentally pertains to the Successor of Peter.

But this passion for unity must move every Christian and every pastor in light of the points of view opened up by the Motu Proprio.  Not, therefore, pursuit of one’s own aesthetic fancy, detached from the community, and maybe even in opposition to others, but the will to be involved ever more in the Mystery of the Church which prays and celebrates, without excluding anyone and without a hindering exclusion toward other liturgical forms or regarding the Second Vatican Council. Only in this way can we avoid that a measure intended to unite and to greatly enliven the Christian community be used instead to wound and divide it.

All the same, I would like to add that I am reasonably optimistic about a optimum fruitful use ("migliore valorizzazione") of the Motu Proprio in the life of our parishes. And I am confident that certain pessimistic concerns, which came forth right way, will soon be revealed as unfounded. The sense of equilibrium which has always characterized our clergy and, therefore, our pastoral work, will bring us to find, thanks to the moderating work of the bishops, the proper ways to make sprout forth a new shoot from the living plant of the Church’s liturgy, nay rather, in the final analysis ("in ultima istanza", to quicken and increase the latter in its totality.

Several things pop out of Bertori’s and Bagnasco’s statements.

  • For bishops and priests, don’t pick and parse, but apply the provisions of Summorum Pontificum.
  • Read the document for the Pope’s thinking, without twisting it out of shape by your own agenda.
  • In the tension between the Church’s past experience in the face of exigencies and today’s needs as we look forward, we must have an interpretive key, a hermeneutic of continuity.  This is inclusive, not exclusive.
  • What we do must not be reduced to personal preference or aesthetics.  Instead, what we do must reveal Mystery.  This was precisely the point of the sermon I gave on 14 September in the UK and what I have been writing about.
  • The provisions of the Motu Proprio will function as a dynamic force within that tension of past/present/future.  The fruit of that tension, as it is lived out in parishes, will eventually be a renewal of the whole of the Church’s liturgy, and therefore her whole life.  This expresses what I express using images like "gravitational force" and "Marshall Plan.

Please note that in the Italian there are a couple interesting phrases.  First, "migliore valorizzazione" goes beyond simply a "good assesment" or something similiar.  "Valorrizzazione" means and increase in value or also a greater use or even exploitation of the value of something, not just an assesment of the value of a thing.  So, Archbp. Bagnasco is talking right away about finding the good uses in concrete ways of the Motu Proprio.  Also, "in ultima istanza" can have the impact of finality in the sense of "last resort".  This phrase actually adds a sense of urgency to what he is saying, as if he is trying very subtly to get across, without saying it directly, that not everything is good, it hasn’t been good for a long time, and this was a necessary measure… perhaps our last resort.  Remember, Italian is pretty subtle and the impact of this phrase will vary in different ears.  But taken all together in this address, I think he is communicating from strength, not from toss away phrases.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Fr. Z. do you mean: “What we do must NOT be reduced to personal preference or aesthetics. Instead, what we do must reveal Mystery. This was precisely the point of the sermon I gave on 14 September in the UK and what I have been writing about.”?

  2. Bill says:

    Thanks for the great posts. It is because of WDTPRS that I have no problem fighting tooth and nail to the “traditionalists” who wish to argue the invalidity of the Novus Ordo.

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