“The older rite is here to stay” – analysis of Universae Ecclesiae by Alcuin Reid

There is a piece on The Catholic Herald‘s site (full disclosure: I write regularly for CH now) about Benedict XVI’s provision in Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae by Alcuin Reid who reedited Fortescue/O’Connell Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described.

My emphases and comments.

The Pope has made clear the older rite is here to stay

By Dr Alcuin Reid on Friday, 20 May 2011

It may seem rather odd that Pope Benedict XVI?has expended so much energy on rules about the use of the old “Latin Mass” – after all, it would appear that most Catholics are content with the modern liturgy in the vernacular. [Which, to date, they really have never experienced.  The new translation will help to change that.  But… quaeritur…] Why, then, yet another set of rules from Rome in this Instruction?

The answer is found in the fact that, as the Instruction insists, the older rites are a “precious treasure to be preserved,” and that the Holy Father wants to offer this treasure “to all the faithful”, not as a quaint museum piece but as a living source of life and grace for the whole Church of today and into the future. All laity, clergy and religious should have access to its diverse riches. [The clear implication is that all should be exposed to the traditional Form.]

These latest rules envisage the inclusion of recent saints and some new texts in the older liturgy. They even foresee new editions of the missal and other liturgical books of the older rites: the older liturgy will continue to exist [attetnion…] and develop as it has over the centuries up until the Second Vatican Council. But it cannot, however, now have certain modern practices (altar girls, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, etc) imposed on it. Its integrity is guaranteed[NB: He doesn’t seem to think that the inclusion of new texts puts its “integrity” at risk.  Neither do I, depending on the texts, of course.  How can the inclusion of new saints harm its integrity?  How can the option of some additional prefaces be harmful?]

Of course, there are historical realities behind this Instruction and the 2007 Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum which it clarifies. [1] In the first place there is the controversy over the liturgical changes that followed the Council. [Many changes were not foreseen by the mandates of the Council Fathers.  But… quaeritur…] Were they a legitimate development or did they involve a rupture with tradition? Neither of these documents settles that question, but the Instruction does, significantly, speak of the development of the Missale Romanum “until the time of Blessed Pope John XXIII” and of the “new Missal” approved for the Church in 1970 by Paul VI. [Sounds rather like a rupture.  No?] This authoritative recognition of a clear distinction between the two – both of which, the Instruction maintains, must be seen to be legitimate and valid – does admit a clear “difference” between that of Paul VI and what came before. Discussion of the implications of this will continue.  [Ever since Summorum Pontificum came out, I have argued that the Pope provided a juridical solution to the relationship of the EF and OF, but he did not settle the issue of whether there were two distinct rites. In Universae Ecclesiae, which moves the discussion into more theological grounds, with its reference to Summorum Pontificum as part of the Holy Father’s Magisterium, perhaps we are moving closer to an answer.]

[2] And then there is the more recent historical reality of widespread opposition to the use of older liturgical rites (not just the Mass, but the sacraments and the blessings and so on, as the Instruction makes clear) on the part of bishops, religious superiors and priests. That is why the Instruction was necessary: even after Summorum Pontificum established that in Church law everyone who wants the older liturgy is entitled to it, this opposition continued, sometimes [often] from high-ranking prelates. This Instruction underlines these rights and makes explicit what was implicit in Summorum Pontificum, namely that if these rights are denied Catholics, be they laity or clergy, have the right of appeal (“recourse”) according to the norms of canon law. It is unusual for Rome to advertise this in an Instruction, but in the light of the opposition it seems necessary.

One of the principal areas of dispute has been what constitutes the “stable group” that is required to request regular public celebrations of the old liturgy. The Instruction dismisses the various straw men put up since Summorum Pontificum in order to block requests for the older liturgy and insists that these groups can be small, can come from different parishes or even dioceses and that they can exist only for the purpose of worshipping the old rites. [And let it not be forgotten that the priest himself can be part of the small, stable group.]

This generosity of interpretation, which runs throughout the Instruction, is a fundamental principle in interpreting canon law: when ecclesiastical authority (the Pope in Summorum Pontificum) grants a favour for the good of people (the continued use of the older liturgy) it is to be applied generously and not restrictively. [odiosa restringenda, favorabilia amplianda]

One issue not resolved by this Instruction is what the older rites are to be called. It uses “ordinary form” and “extraordinary form” as well as “Antiquior Usus” (the “more ancient use”) of the Roman rite. [NB] Some commentators have insisted on an interpretation of “extraordinary” that is quite pejorative: the older rites have been regarded as an eccentric relative, mention of whose existence brings about a knowing smile and with whom close contact is seen as a risk. There is no foundation for this in either Summorum Pontificum or this Instruction. The terms “ordinary” and “extraordinary” are used in a sense of what is statistically normative, that is all. [Well… okay.  That is a good guess at what the Instruction means by Ordinary, though the Instruction does not say… which in itself is very interesting.  The Instruction does say, however, that the two forms are “alongside” one another.] Indeed, in the Latin text “ordinaria” and “extraordinaria” are not capitalised, whereas “Antiquior Usus” is. Given the derogatory use to which “extraordinary form” has been put, it is probably time to set it aside in favour of “the more ancient rites” or some such terminology. [A matter for discussion.]

There are, I suggest, two areas in which the Instruction is weak. [1] The first is in its assertion that seminarians should be given the opportunity to learn the older rites “where pastoral needs suggest it”. Some bishops will use the latitude permitted here to exclude such formation from seminaries. That will only serve to impoverish seminarians’ overall liturgical formation, for regardless of whether a diocese has a clear “pastoral” demand for the older rites, experience and knowledge of them on the part of future priests cannot but serve to enrich their grasp of liturgical theology and spirituality, and lay a good foundation for their liturgical ministry, even – perhaps especially – in the new rites.  [I agree.  This is a weakness.  However, it is understandable that in Japan there may not be quite as pressing a need as, for example, at Allen Hall or the North American College.  “But Father! But Father!”, I can hear the traddies yelling.  “Japan needs the old Mass too!”.  Yes, I agree.  It does.  It is a global need.  But we build brick by brick.  Still, I think that paragraph was a bit bloodless..]

[2] The other weakness is the Instruction’s curious restriction of the older rites of ordination to those communities supervised by the Ecclesia Dei commission in Rome. This denies diocesan bishops the pastoral freedom to judge which rite of ordination is best; it may discourage vocations. Priests have this freedom in respect of celebrations of the Mass and other sacraments: why this ungenerous restriction on bishops? [I have argued that most seminarians would want to be ordained in the older form.] Also, communities who are not under the Roman commission but who permanently use the older liturgy in accordance with Summorum Pontificum could find themselves having to use the new ordination rites. This is an anomaly that needs to be addressed.  [I hope that, soon, a diocesan bishop asks the PCED to grant permission for him to ordain his diocesan priests with the older book.]

These concerns aside, the Instruction Universæ Ecclesiæ underlines the fact that the older Roman rites are here to stay. When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope I wrote that “there is little doubt that we shall see freedom granted to the traditional Latin Mass”. That has now more than come to pass, and decisively. [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

It may seem strange that this matter is a priority for Pope Benedict. But we need to remember, as he wrote in 1997, that “the true celebration of the sacred liturgy is the centre of any renewal of the Church whatever”. In the Holy Father’s judgment, free access to the Usus Antiquior is a necessary component of such renewal.  [I call it “the tip of the spear”.]

Dr Alcuin Reid is a cleric of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, France, and editor of Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described

Good analysis and he is surely correct about most of his points.  Even his guesses are rooted in sound reasons.

There won’t be a New Evangelization without a renewal of our worship.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Fr_Sotelo says:

    The freeing of the EF Mass and sacraments is needed for pastoral care of the faithful. However, conferring Holy Orders in the Usus Antiquior is not a “need” but a “want.” And bishops would then be in a difficult position if petitioned by seminarians. The bishops who didn’t want to ordain in the Extraordinary Form would be the bad guys, so to speak. I think the Holy Father was very wise, in this respect. As things stand, bishops who have no desire, at all, for the EF Mass, are not in any way obligated to get involved–it is a matter for pastors to decide on their own. But once you say you are going to make EF Ordination an option, you necessarily involve the Diocesan Bishop in something he may want no part of, and that is a fight which the Holy Father wisely decided should be left to another day.

  2. theophilus says:

    “There won’t be a New Evangelization without a renewal of our worship. ”

    How true! I will be confirmed soon, and in the last few years I have noticed marked improvements in the liturgy of my own parrish. Part of it (I think) has to do with the both forms of the Roman Rite being offered at my church. Liturgical osmosis:)

  3. James Joseph says:

    Fr. Zzzzz… [I guess I bore you.]

    I have a wonderful Nat’l Geographic photo from the 1970’s. The photo is from Communist China, someplace somewhere. You should see the beauty captured by the camera lense. There are altar rails, fiddlebacks, icons, and high-altars. Long have I quipped, “Aparently the ‘reforms’ didn’t apply to the rural Chinese.”


  4. MichaelJ says:

    The freeing of the EF Mass and sacraments is needed for pastoral care of the faithful.

    Father Sotelo, I can agree with the above statement to a point, but am left wondering if there is more to it. Is the purpose of the Mass exclusively, or even primarily to serve the spiritual needs of the faithful?

    If so, why can’t I fulfill my spiritual needs on Sunday by saying a Rosary at halftime while sitting in my Barco lounger?

  5. Jayna says:

    I, too, found it quite curious that they restricted the use of the EF form of ordination. While I am sure that if a bishop asked permission it would be granted, the document doesn’t promote its general use. Then again, I do agree with what Fr. Sotelo said above. One fight at a time.

  6. James Joseph says:

    Found it…. Nat’l Geographic, Vol. 157, No. 3, March 1980.

    It has a photo. of Nan Tang Cathedral in Bei’jing before the interior was wreckovated.

    The photo. caption says, “Attendence was nil” which par for the course for Nat’l Atheo-graphic.

  7. RobertK says:

    Father will you ever do an article on the Anglican Use of the Roman Rite, and compare that to both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form. I just read that in England the texts that the Ordinariates in England and Wales will use, has been finalized, and is just waiting for approval from Rome. [I don’t have a book with the Anglican Use. Perhaps it is one line. But I’ll bet a reader could put them side by side in a table format for me.]

  8. mibethda says:

    Dr. Reid’s conclusion that communities not under the PCED, but which regularly use the 1962 liturgical books, may not be able to avail themselves of the older rite of ordination seems to conflict with the language of Paragraph 31 which provides that in Institutes and Societies under the PCED “and in those which use the liturgical books of the forma extraordinaria” the older rite may be used. The anomaly which Reid perceives does not seem to be borne out in the language of the provision.

  9. Warren says:

    Not that I’ll be around to see it celebrated, at least not on earth. However, I hope one day that all the travails of the present age will yield one use. To coin a phrase for a generation to come: One Rite; one Use!

  10. St. Rafael says:

    From the article:
    “after all, it would appear most Catholics are content with the modern liturgy in the vernacular.”

    Mass atenndance in the U.S. is at 25%. 75% of Catholics do not go to Mass. That is a colossal proof of total failure. It is not just a majority like 51%, but 75%. It not two-thirds, but 75%.

    3 out of 4 Catholics do not go to Mass and are not content with the modern liturgy in the vernacular. Catholics have voted with their feet and do not go to the new rite and new Mass.
    3 out of 4 Catholics have stopped practicing the faith or have become Protestants.

  11. Moscatelli says:

    Speaking about forms and rites is indeed interesting. Since October i follow the Ambrosian usus antiquior on Sundays; the rite does not have Judica me (but begins with Introibo), no (or different) Kyrie, no Agnus Dei, Credo after the offertorium has begun, but before the Canon (which is almost exactly the same as the Roman) and other minor differences (in Mass; then comes other things such as six weeks of Advent and no Ash Wednesday, as in the really old Roman rite). In the Confiteor, following the confession and before “misereatur …”, “Deo gratias!” is added, and I can’t stop meditating, Sunday after Sunday, about the beauty in how the Church rejoices at the confession of sins before remitting them (ALL of them, as it is said “… et dimissis omnibus peccatis vestris …”). I really do love our local Rite. All of this just to say that the ancient Ambrosian rite is – feels? – closer to the traditional Roman rite than to either of the reformed rites. I’d say that between the usus antiquior and usus reformatus of the Roman rite, the differences are bigger than between the Ambrosian and Roman rites. I really do hope that people like Dr Reid will dwell more on this for the edification of us all. Perhaps something from you, don Zeta?

  12. Joe Magarac says:

    Fr. Z, one of your comments in red confused me. You said:

    Ever since Summorum Pontificum came out, I have argued that the Pope provided a juridical solution to the relationship of the EF and OF, but he did not settle the issue of whether there were two distinct rites.

    But Summorum Pontificum says:

    They are, in fact two usages of the one Roman rite.

    If the Holy Father said that the missal of Paul VI and the missal of Pius V/John XXIII are two usages of one rite, how did he fail to settle the question of whether they are two distinct rites? Doesn’t he in fact make it clear that they are two usages of the one Roman rite?

    [I made a distinction. “Juridical”. I also indicate that the new Instruction has given us more to think about. ]

  13. Gregorius says:

    No matter how small the stable group of faithful is, I’m certain ONE does not count as such a group. I’m pretty certain that I’m the only one in my parish who asks for the older form of Holy Mass. And this is unfortunate, as I feel I have an attachment to these older forms, though I have had very few chances to attend them in my diocese. It also messes with my discernment to religious vocations of any kind, as there seem to be very few clerics who understand my attachment to these older forms, and as I don’t get the opportunity to expeience the older forms I would probably never be accepted by orders/institutes that specialize in them.

  14. Fr_Sotelo says:

    MichaelJ: Yes, the Mass, or Divine Liturgy, primarily exists to serve the spiritual needs of the faithful (the clergy are also faithful, although they are not lay faithful). The liturgy, in Western or Eastern forms, certainly is not serving some need that God has. It is the faithful who have need, first, to render glory to God (extrinsic, coming from creatures, as opposed to intrinsic, which He possesses in Himself). Then, the faithful have need to edify the Mystical Body of Christ, Holy Church. Finally, the faithful have need to work out their personal salvation in fear and trembling.

    You asked, “If so, why can’t I fulfill my spiritual needs on Sunday by saying a Rosary at halftime while sitting in my Barco lounger?” You could, if Our Lord had stipulated this. But insofar as He commanded at the Last Supper, and the Apostles testify to this in their preaching and practice, that the Mass is the means to accomplish the re-presentation of Calvary for the ends stated above (and not your Rosary recited in your Barco lounger), then that is what the Church orders as being of positive divine law and ecclesiastical law binding on the faithful.

  15. “There won’t be a New Evangelization without a renewal of our worship.”

    Thank you, Father Z. You have gotten right to the heart of the matter!
    I offer my own reflection on this subject, published on my blog for the Feast of the Epiphany.


  16. MichaelJ says:

    Father Sotelo.
    I’ll have to think a bit more about what you say. Something still strikes me as “not quite right” or missing. Perhaps it is the use of the word “need”, or my own misunderstanding, but your response seems to indicate that:
    1. God is indifferent to how we worhip Him
    2. The liturgy is not a “treasure to be preserved” but instead a tool to be used (and modified or even discarded at will) to meet the needs of Man.

  17. RobertK says:

    You know what would be awesome. If we had the magazine “Magnificat” come out with an edition for the Extraordinary Form.

  18. Tradster says:

    “How can the option of some additional prefaces be harmful?”

    On the surface this is a reasonable question and I agree with it in principle. The answer, I believe, lies in the translations. If horribly bland ICEL texts are used for the readings or prefaces then the damage to the TLM could be severe.

  19. Henry Edwards says:

    Father Z: I don’t have a book with the Anglican Use. Perhaps it is one line.

    Yes, the (Anglican Use) Book of Divine Worship in PDF form is here:


    But you can very quickly page through its Order of Mass here:


    You can view an Anglican Use Mass here:


    Some might say it has some of the look and feel of a Tridentine Mass, but in Elizabethan English (though it has both Novus Ordo and Anglican elements).

  20. Henry Edwards says:

    If horribly bland ICEL texts are used for the readings or prefaces then the damage to the TLM could be severe.

    But of course, for the TLM, the Latin originals of the new prefaces would be used. However one feels about the general question, in Latin many of these prefaces have the same kind of structure, depth, and elegance as the familiar TLM prefaces and, moreover, the much better corrected translations are now available for those who’d want to follow them in English .

  21. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Perhaps you are extrapolating from my post because you believe God wishes to be worshipped according to a particular form (the EF Mass?). When my post doesn’t go in that direction, maybe you think I paint God as “indifferent”? I think that the Mass or Divine Liturgy, offered well by the priest and prayed well by the people, is extremely important to God. But no, I don’t think God is going to favor one form over another.

    As far as the liturgy as treasure, I agree, except not as a museum piece, not as an artifact which stands apart from the work of salvation of souls. And the liturgy as treasure, to me, extends to all the rites and forms. The Mozarbic form is a treasure. The Byzantine rite is a treasure. And even the OF Mass is a treasure. But each form of the liturgy, in the respective rites, is a treasure because by that means, God is glorified, the Church is built up, and souls are saved. The liturgy is not a treasure in the sense of a Faberge egg. Its value as treasure is because it has a purpose for us, the people, in God’s plan. And when we, the people, after the End and the General Judgment, no longer need the liturgy, it ceases and has no more existence.

    And so, yes, God will “discard” the liturgy when it is no longer necessary after the end of the world, not in a contemptuous way, but like all things, “the old order has passed away. See, I make all things new. I am the Alpha and the Omega.” Or to use the words of Our Lord, “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The liturgy serves God insofar as God and the Church use it for the sanctification of souls. If the liturgy did not serve God for the good of souls, it would neither be a treasure, nor would it be worth preserving.

  22. Henry Edwards says:

    RobertK: Yes, indeed, an EF edition of the Magnificat would mean the restoration is truly at hand. But I suspect we’ll have to see a papal TLM first.

  23. RobertK says:

    Here is an Anglican Use Requim Mass. Looks very similar to a TLM. Very nice choir as well.

  24. Gaz says:

    I am not keen on the term, “Extraordinary form”. I’ve taken to calling it the “Elder form of the rite”.

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