Summorum Pontificum now in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis – text variations

The daily newspaper of the Italian Bishops Conference Avvenire has an article on p. A23 about the appearance of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum in the official instrument of the Holy See for the promulgation of documents, Acta Apostolicae Sedis.  

There are variations in the text of the Motu Proprio.  

First, here is my translation of the piece in Avvenire with my emphases and comments.  Then I will summarize the few, but in some ways, important changes to the Latin text.

Summorum Pontificum Published in the Acta

Mass in Latin [grrrrr]

The text of the Motu Proprio is in the "official gazette" of the Holy See.  How requests for use of the Missal of 1962 in parishes where there is "stably" a group of faithful adhering to the pre-conciliar rite are to be received.

Yesterday Benedict XVI nominated as Vice President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Msgr. Camile Perl, till now Secretary of the same Commission.  At the same time the Pope nominated as Secretary Msgr. Mario Marini, until now Adjunct Secretary.

The Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, with which on 7 July 2007 Benedict XVI "derestricted" the use of the pre-conciliar Missale Romanum, was published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, the official gazette of the Holy See.  The text of the document appears in the fascicle of the Acta distributed last week, that bears the date 7 September 2007, on pages 777-781.  Together with is the accompanying letter that the Pope wrote to bishops of the Catholic Church of the Latin Rite.

On 22 September of last year Corriere della sera had a comment on p. 49 entitled "But is the Motu Proprio really on the back burner? (resta a bagno maria)".  In it it was indicated that the document Summorum Pontificum had not yet been published in the Acta, "the instrument which gives force to papal provisions".  The commentator in question, Prof. Alberto Melloni, after having referred to criticisms expressed by some ecclesiastics about the Motu Proprio in question, appears to appreciate the "wise decision still to keep on the back burner a text that is creating more problems than it resolves."

In reality, at the time the Motu Proprio was not published in the Acta for the simple fact that there had not been time enough to work out the technical issues.  To tell the truth, the publication of the Motu Proprio was expected in the preceding fascicle of the Acta, that bore documents and pontifical appointments published between 27 May and 2 August 2007.  Perhaps the brief delay for the publication was due to the fact that, compared to the version published on 7 July 2007, the definitive and binding version of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum showed some small variations. 

Above all, the Motu Proprio was given a subtitle (De uso [sic! It should be usu.] extraordinario antiquae formae Ritus Romani) that was not present before.  In Article 1, then, the term "conditiones" was replaced with the more correct form "condiciones". 

In Article 3 the term "plerumque" (the majority of times) was replaced with "habitualiter" (habitually), without however changing the substance of the disposition.  [Not sure about that.]

The more concrete variation, on the other hand, is in Article 5,1: "In parishes in which there exists stably (stabiliter) a group of faithful adhereing to the preceding liturgical tradition, the pastor is to received willingly their requests for the celebration of Holy Mass according to the rite of the Missale Romanum published in 1962".  In the original version, in place of the term "stabiliter" there was "continenter", which literally means "uninterruptedly" and which could cause one to think erroneously that the group of the faithful had the right to the "pre-conciliar" Mass only if it was stably established already before the publication of the Motu Proprio and not subsequent to it.   [This is a significant change in meaning.]

Finally, another variation is found in Article 7: "If a group of the lay faithful, mentioned in art. 5,1, have not obtained to the request on the part of the pastor, let the Diocesan Bishop be informed about the matter.  The Bishop is strenuously asked that he graciously grant their desire.  If he does not want to provide for such a celebration, let the matter be referred to the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei".  In this case the verb "non vult" replaces the original "non potest" (cannot).  [Another fairly important change.]

To sum up the changes in the Latin text.

There is a subtitle: De uso extraordinario antiquae formae Ritus Romani ("On the extraordinary use of the old form of the Roman Rite");  [No significant meaning attached to that addition.  Remember that in Latin, antiquus can also mean "former in time", not just "old" or "ancient".]

In Article 1, conditiones is replaced by condiciones[The meaning of the Article does not change thereby.]

In Article 3, plerumque ("very often, for the most part") is replaced with habitualiter, a word found in juridical Latin, meaning "habitually", with the legal overtone that carries.  [This could have an impact.  But we need a canonist on this.]

In article 5, § 1, continenter ("continuously, uninterruptedly") is replaced with a term found in legal Latin stabiliter ("stably").  This is an important change in meaning.  Effectively, stably says that the group has to be there for a while, and need not have been there in an uniterrupted way even before the Motu Proprio.  So, new groups can form and emerge and then be around in a continuous way.  What we still need to understand, however, is what "stable" means in terms of the group’s composition.  One assumes reasonably that a group can grow or shrink.  Hopefully this will be clarified now that we have the correct word. [This is big.  It concerns the composition and presence of a group of faithful.]

In article 7, non potest ("cannot") is not non vult ("does not want").  There is a big difference between not wanting to do something and not being able to do something.  We are all able to do things we would prefer not to do.  So, if a priest is capable, if a bishop is capable, but does not want to do something for the requests of lay people, the matter goes to Rome.  In other words, if the cleric is capable, and the means are there, there is even less excuse not to receive petitions positively than there was when the words were non potest[This is also big.  It concerns the attitude of those who receive petitions, the available means, and ability of the clerics concerned.]

In a way, the change to stabiliter and non vult strengthen the rights of lay people in this regard.  I don’t really understand the ramifications of the juridical sounding habitualiter (a dreadful Latin word).

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  1. Chironomo says:

    Is there maybe some significance to Summorum becoming “official” and the official version being made known right as the clarification document is expected to come out? This seems too tidy to be a coincidence. Prior to the publication in the Acta, it could always be claimed that particular objections by those opposed were based on an “unofficial text”, and now that the official text is known, it will be clarified shortly before new objections can arise… how convenient!

  2. Prof. Basto says:

    Actually, Father, I beg leave to disagree regarding the meaning of the subtitle. I don’t know how much importance can be attached to a subtitle anyway — I mean, the subtitle sounds restrictive but the norms sound generous. Don’t you think that

    De uso extraordinario antiquae formae Ritus Romani ,
    On the extraordinary use of the ancient form of the Roman Rite or
    On the extraordinary use of the old form of the Roman Rite ,
    gives an impression that the use/utilization of the old/ancient form is extraordinary, in a sense of out of the normal pattern?

    In this subtitle, it is not the ancient form of the Rite that is referred to as “extraordinary” (as happens in the norms within the Motu Proprio, when they refer to extraordinary form of the rite). Rather, in the subtitle, the use/utilization of the ancient form is what is referred to as extraordinary.

    Extraordinary use/utilization of the ancient form of the rite does not seem to mean the same as referring to the ancient TLM as extraordinary form of the rite.

    I do think that this carries a big difference in meaning I don’t like this new meaning, but I’m being honest here. I could try to spin this and say that it is of no importance, but it is of concern to me, although it is unclear what a subtitle can do to change the interpretation of a whole document.

    Do I have a point?

  3. Pleased as Punch says:

    Dear Prof. Basto,

    Maybe it’s no more than an epexegetic or appositional genitive, so that it means
    something like this: “Concerning the extraordinary use, namely, the old/former
    form of the Roman Rite.” One could also place a comma after the word “form” to
    get a different nuance.

  4. Tim Ferguson says:

    Diving in on the force of the change from “plerumque” to “habitualiter,” I can find only three uses of “plerumque” in the Latin code – canons 2, 1314, and 1587. In each case, it’s probably best translated as “ordinarily” or “normally.” Linguistically, it seems there’s a certain lack, or minimizing of volition to the term – e.g. It’s not that the Code doesn’t intend to define rites and liturgical actions, it simply a reality that, ordinarily, it doesn’t do so (canon 2).

    “Habitualiter” is used more frequently in the Latin Code – in 9 canons, by my count (with the help of Intratext, though it’s not an infallible resource). Habitualiter seems to carry more of a notion of intentionality with it. In c. 408, for example, we see that a bishop is not to “habitualiter” entrust rights and functions to others which the coadjutor or auxiliary bishops can exercise – for example, if a diocese has an auxiliary or auxiliaries, the diocesan bishop should not habitually – with intent and a certain sense of durability – delegate Confirmation to parish pastors.

    In the long run, I don’t think the change from “plerumque” to “habitualiter” alters Art. 3 of Summorum Pontificum in a significant manner. It is a better word there, I think, but added to the two adverbs which surround it, “saepe” and “permanenter,” I can’t see how this word change will in any way affect those religious communities which are wrestling with their use of the 1962 Missal for conventual Masses.

  5. Stu says:

    I always thought that the delay in getting the official document out was intention. It allowed Papa to see those not supportive of his actions play their hands before he really played his.

  6. torontonian says:

    “De uso extraordinario antiquae formae Ritus Romani”

    Usus is a fourth declension noun. Shouldn’t it be “De usu extraordinario”?

  7. Prof. Basto: I am not sure what to do with it. When I put my Latin thinking cap on, and hear it with Latin ears, I like the sound of “old”. Romans like the “old” and are suspicious of the “new”, the novum… res novae.

  8. Torontonian: Let us hope they didn’t make that mistake. I reprinted what I found, but I will edit it.

  9. sic et non says:

    De uso extraordinario antiquae formae Ritus Romani,

    We know that the 2002 Missale is the current expression of the Roman Rite and is here to stay until a new editio typica, hopefully modified by the style and text of this usus antiquior supercedes it. Is the document not simply considering the antiqua forma in the same light as, say, the Sarum Use of the rite of Mass? Considering the antiqua forma as a legitimate Use in its own right seems to me to give it more substance and independent character than just considering it an extraordinary form..

  10. Clavem Abyssi says:

    The “stable versus continuous” part has me quite confused. Intuitively, I interpreted it as meaning that the TLM should not be celebrated to satisfy the curiosity or nostalgia of a few parishioners. There should be a serious group that has desired it for some time and expresses a wish to attend it regularly. So I interpret “stability”, as well as “continuously” as more referring to the seriousness and sobriety of the group’s intentions, as opposed to their longevity or size.

    At our parish, I know of several people (myself included) who would appreciate a TLM, but we haven’t “adhered” to it in any meaningful way. I’ve attended Tridentine masses at FSSP parishes before the Motu Proprio, but that’s about it. I wasn’t part of a “Latin Mass fan club” or anything. I don’t really understand what “adhere” means here. Practically speaking, what must one to do to be said to adhere to the preceding liturgical tradition? (Especially for young people?)

  11. Peter Karl T. Perkins says:

    To Clavem Abyssi:

    Adhærentium here must be interpreted widely; it is not per se restricted. If you claim to adhere to the ‘extraordinary’ Liturgy, the law assumes that you do, unless there are very good reasons for supposing the contrary.

    For the meaning of ‘stabiliter’, a really good change, in my view, see my comments on the other thread on this subject established by Fr. Z. It modifies “exsistit” and means ‘stably existing group’. I argue over there that, for a group to be stably existing in a parish, its members must

    (a) live or intend to live in its territory or

    (b) express their intention to worhip there on a continuous basis in the future.

    It is not restricted to (a) because, under the new Code, we can fulfil the Sunday obligation anywhere–even in a different diocese or in an Eastern Divine Liturgy, and even on Easter Sunday. Hence a group in a parish can be or can include people who live elsewhere and only have a clear intention to worship there. This intention can be manifested and proved for the purposes of law by a written declaration signed by the members of the group, witnessed, and dated. Call it a one-page kitchen contract.

    A cœtus, group, can be as few as three people, and they need not be the same three over any period of time. The Canon Law Society of Great Britan put that interpretation on it.

    We need to see that the restrictions here are minimal. But we also need to see that S.P. really extends full rights from bishops to parish priests, not from bishops to laics. Laics gain some rights under S.P. but not full rights to the old Mass. Article 5.1 enjoins but does not command parish priests to receive lay petitions favourably. However, one point rarely understood is that the parish priest can proceed under 5.1 even if NO group lodges a request–even if no such stably existing group exists in the parish. The bit about the group of faithful is NOT restrictive. Nowhere in 5.1 does it say that the parish priest may proceed ONLY if he receives a request from a group of laics. No, he can proceed completely on his own authority under Article 1 and, should he be too busy with other Masses for this, he can invite other priests to celebrate our Mass, even retired priests.

    It’s raining here today and yet this is a beautiful day.

    Still, I worry about how idoneus will be interpreted in 5.4.


  12. Father M says:

    Like Prof. Basto, I groaned when I first saw the subtitle. Too many people (Bishops among them) have tried to use “extraordinary” in a restrictive and not in the generous manner suggested by the document itself and by normal canonical practice. Overall, the changes are good ones which extend the range of SP (non vult is particularly apt).

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