VIS: Holy See Press Office statement about Universae Ecclesiae

From VIS with my emphases and comments.


VATICAN CITY, 13 MAY 2011 (VIS) – Following is the notice, in full, summarizing the new Instruction Universae Ecclesia [again] regarding the application of the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum” issued by Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office.

“Instruction on the application of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (of 7 July 2007, entered into effect 14 September 2007) was approved by Pope Benedict XVI last 8 April and carries the date of 30 April in liturgical remembrance of Pope St. Pius V.

The Instruction, called Universae Ecclesiae [At last.] on the basis of the first words of the text in Latin, comes from the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, to which the Pope also entrusted the task of monitoring the observance and application of the Motu Proprio. It therefore bears the signatures of its president, Cardinal William Levada, and secretary, Msgr. Guido Pozzo.

The document was sent to all the Bishops in the past weeks. Remember that “Instructions clarify the prescripts of laws, elaborating on and determining the methods to be observed in fulfilling them” (CIC, can. 34). As is said in n.12, the Instruction was issued “with the desire to guarantee the proper interpretation and the correct application of the Motu Proprio ‘Summorum Pontificum’“.

It is natural that, in its application, the Instruction follow the law contained in the Motu Proprio. The fact that this occurs now, three years later, is easily explained by recalling that in the Pope’s Letter accompanying the Motu Proprio, he explicitly said to the Bishops: “I invite you to send to the Holy See an account of your experiences, three years after this Motu Proprio has taken effect. If truly serious difficulties come to light, ways to remedy them can be sought.” The letter accompanying the Instruction thus bears with it the fruit of a three year trial of the application of the law, which was foreseen from the beginning.

The document is presented in plain wording and is easily read. [Though there are a couple points which require some knowledge of canonical terms.] Its Introduction (nos. 1-8) briefly recalls the history of the Roman Missal up to the last edition of John XXIII in 1962 and the new Missal approved by Paul VI in 1970 following the liturgical reform of Vatican Council II. It repeats the fundamental principle that there are “two forms of the Roman Liturgy, defined respectively as extraordinaria and ordinaria: they are two usages of the one Roman Rite, one alongside the other. Both are the expression of the same lex orandi of the Church. On account of its venerable and ancient use, the forma extraordinaria is to be maintained with appropriate honor” (n. 6).

The purpose of the Motu Proprio, expressed in the following three points, bears repeating: a) to offer to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in its most ancient usage, considered as a precious treasure to be preserved; b) to effectively guarantee and ensure, for all who ask for it, the use of the forma extraordinaria; and c) to promote reconciliation at the heart of the Church (cf. n. 8).

A brief section of the document (nos. 9-11) recalls the tasks and powers of the Commission Ecclesia Dei, to which the Pope “has conferred ordinary vicarious power” on the subject. Among others, [Nota bene:] this has two very important consequences. First of all, this Commission can [1] decide on  recourses legitimately sent to it against eventual measures taken by bishops or other Ordinaries that seem to be in conflict with the dispositions of the Motu Proprio (while retaining the possibility of further challenging the decisions of the Commission itself before the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura). Moreover, it falls to the Commission, with the approval of the Congregation for Divine Worship, [2] to take care of eventual editions of liturgical texts for the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite (for example, it is to be hoped that, following the document, new saints and new prefaces will be added).

The properly normative part of the document (nos. 12-35) contains 23 brief points on different topics.

The competence of diocesan bishops to implement the Motu Proprio is reasserted, with the reminder that in cases of controversy regarding the celebration in the forma extraordinaria, the Commission Ecclesia Dei will adjudicate.

It clarifies the concept of coetus fidelium stabiliter existens (“where there exists a stable group of faithful”), whose desire to attend the celebration in the forma extraordinaria is to be willingly accepted by pastors. While leaving an evaluation of the number of persons necessary to constitute such a group to the prudent assessment of the pastors, it specifies that it not be necessarily constituted by persons belonging to a single parish, but can be composed of persons coming from different parishes or even different dioceses. Always keeping in mind respect for the widest pastoral needs, [that wording does not appear in the Instruction] the Instruction proposes a spirit of “generous welcome” toward the groups of faithful who request the forma extraordinaria and the priests who occasionally ask to celebrate that form with some faithful.

Also very important is the clarification (n. 19) according to which the faithful who request the celebration of the forma extraordinaria “must not in any way support or belong to groups which show themselves to be against the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria” or against the Pope’s authority as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church. Such would, in fact, be in obvious contradiction of the purpose of the Motu’s “reconciliation”. [Reminder: the third of three purposes indicated.]

Important indications regarding the “qualified priest” to celebrate the forma extraordinaria are also given. Naturally, he should not have impediments from a canonical aspect. He should know Latin sufficiently well and know the rite to be celebrated. Bishops should, therefore, make adequate formation possible in the seminaries to such ends and the possibility is noted, if other qualified priests are unavailable, of the assistance of priests from the Institutes established by the Commission Ecclesia Dei (which normally use the forma extraordinaria).

The Instruction repeats that every priest, whether diocesan or religious, has the right to celebrate the Mass sine popolo (without a congregation) in the forma extraordinaria if they so desire. Therefore, if it is a celebration with the participation of only one minister, the individual religious do not need the permission of their superiors.

Always in reference to the forma extraordinaria, there follow norms regarding the liturgical rubrics and use of liturgical books (such as the Ritual, the Pontifical, and the Ceremonial of Bishops), the possibility of using the vernacular for the readings (proclaimed either after the Latin language readings or even in alternative to them in “Low Masses”), the possibility for clerics to use the pre-reform Breviary, and the possibility of celebrating the Sacred Triduum of Holy Week for groups of faithful who request the ancient rite. As regards holy ordination, the use of ancient liturgical books is only permitted in the Institutes that are under the Commission Ecclesia Dei.

[And new we depart from news and move into opinion, interpretation…]

On finishing the letter, one is left with the impression of a well-balanced text that intends to promote – as intended by the Pope – a serene usage of the pre-reform liturgy by priests and faithful who feel its sincere desire for their spiritual well-being: [Note: “promote”.] even more, a text that intends to guarantee the legitimacy and efficacy of such usage in keeping with what is reasonably possible. At the same time, the text is animated with trust in the bishops’ pastoral wisdom and insists very strongly on a spirit of ecclesial communion that should be present in all – faithful, priests, and bishops – so that the purpose of reconciliation, so evident in the Holy Father’s decision, not be hindered or frustrated but fostered and attained”.

CNS has this:

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the language of that provision made it clear that “there should be no polemical or critical intent on the part of those people making the request.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Henry Edwards says:

    The letter accompanying the Instruction thus bears with it the fruit of a three year trial of the application of the law, which was foreseen from the beginning.

    As I recall, the letter (to the bishops) accompanying the original motu proprio was made available at the same time. Is the letter accompanying this Instruction now available anywhere?

  2. Prof. Basto says:

    Remembering always that those Masses sine populo can actually have the populo present under art. 4 of the Motu Proprio. This is clearly set out in the Apostolic Letter itself, but since the Instruction opted to make reference to the sine populo language in article 2 of the Motu Proprio it should perhaps have recalled that the Motu Proprio’s article 4 is also relevant in understanding how much sine populo those Masses sine populo actually are.

  3. PilgrimToChrist says:

    “the possibility of celebrating the Sacred Triduum of Holy Week for groups of faithful who request the ancient rite.”

    That would be nice, unfortunately we’re still stuck with the 1955 Holy Week…

  4. Chrysologus says:

    It’s always sad to see obvious spelling errors in Latin from Catholic organizations, but especially when it’s the Holy See!!!

  5. Mike Morrow says:

    It was suggested: “…unfortunately we’re still stuck with the 1955 Holy Week…”

    Just as we would have been, had there *never* been a Vatican II and the subsequent 45 years of Church chaos, ruin, and episcopal intimidation of those who objected!

    The 1955 Holy Week change issue is a different battle that is completely unrelated to Summorum Pontificum and the 1962 Missale Romanum. The 1955 Holy Week changes did not destroy the Church for hundreds of millions, as did the post-Vatican II changes.

  6. ContraMundum says:

    “The document was sent to all the Bishops in the past weeks.”

    Would this be before the recent bit about female altar servers in the EF in the UK?

  7. Dr. Lee Fratantuono says:

    The 1955 Holy Week may indeed be a “different battle,” but the problem of the 1962 books remains. One of the more unfortunate of these problems is the matter of the Breviarium, where, as many have noted, the cutting of almost 2/3 of Sunday Matins means the 1962 Office sometimes poses a question from a Father that no longer has an answer because the other lessons were cut (interesting, the 1962 Franciscan breviary retained the full Matins for Sundays). I can live with the untraditional concept of starting most days at Matins instead of First Vespers; I can live without the many commemorations that once showed a real connection between the rites of the West and the East. But one would hope that the problem of the Breviary would soon be addressed. Indeed, I’d happily see more liturgical concern over that issue than whether women are wearing chapel veils or whether you’re obligated to fast three hours or only one. Given the avowed interest of the modern liturgical movement to highlight Sundays, it would seem very easy indeed to keep the principal of 9 Matins lessons on all I and II class days (and perhaps also those especially solemn III days that retained numerous proper elements even in 1962). This would solve the current problem.

    In any case, “Universae Ecclesiae” raises an interesting question re: the Breviary, since it now introduces the (I think vaguely worded) idea of “integral” use of the 1962 Office, which might be taken to mean that if you use the 1962 Office, you need to use the whole sequence and not, e.g., Vespers from the 1962 and the rest from the modern Liturgia Horarum.

  8. kgurries says:

    The find it significant that the document clarifies that SP is an act of the Ponfifical Magisterium — and not only disciplinary and canonical. The Pope is also formally engaging his office of “teaching” with SP. Good stuff.

  9. Jack Orlando says:

    Two Questions, which I’ll put in separate posts. The first for those whose Latin is far better than mine:

    “15 – Coetus fidelium dicitur ‘stabiliter exsistens’ ad sensum art. 5 § 1 Litterarum Apostolicarum Summorum Pontificum, quando ab aliquibus personis cuiusdam paroeciae constituitur, etsi post publicationem Litterarum Apostolicarum coniunctis, ratione venerationis Liturgiae in Antiquiore Usu, poscentibus ut in ecclesia paroeciali vel in aliquo oratorio vel sacello Antiquior Usus celebretur: hic coetus constitui potest a personis ex pluribus paroeciis aut dioecesibus convenientibus et qui una concurrunt ad ecclesiam paroecialem aut oratorium ad finem, de quo supra, assequendum. Ad numerum fidelium huius coetus designandum, pastoralis succurrit ratio, cautis tamen circumstantiis aequa lance ponderandis.” Emphasis added.

    Translated into English as:
    “15. A coetus fidelium (“group of the faithful”) can be said to be stabiliter existens (‘existing in a stable manner’), according to the sense of art. 5 § 1 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, when it is constituted by some people of an individual parish who, even after the publication of the Motu Proprio, come together by reason of their veneration for the Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, and who ask that it might be celebrated in the parish church or in an oratory or chapel; such a coetus (“group”) can also be composed of persons coming from different parishes or dioceses, who gather together in a specific parish church or in an oratory or chapel for this purpose.

    Question: Has the last sentence been translated? Sorry that my Latin is so poor.

  10. Jack Orlando says:

    My second question

    “19 – Christifideles celebrationem secundum formam extraordinariam postulantes, auxilium ne ferant neque nomen dent consociationibus, quae validitatem vel legitimitatem Sanctae Missae Sacrificii et Sacramentorum secundum formam ordinariam impugnent, vel Romano Pontifici, Universae Ecclesiae Pastori quoquo modo sint infensae.”

    Translated into English as:
    “19. The faithful who ask for the celebration of the forma extraordinaria must not in any way support or belong to groups which show themselves to be against the validity or legitimacy of the Holy Mass or the Sacraments celebrated in the forma ordinaria or against the Roman Pontiff as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church.”

    And with this clarification from the Vatican, quoted by Fr Z above:
    “Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the language of that provision made it clear that ‘there should be no polemical or critical intent on the part of those people making the request.’”

    My question: What does the mean for (a) members of the the SSPX and for (b) those traditionalists who regard the Ordinary Form either invalid or illegitimate? We know of plenty of such traditionalists who are “polemical” and “critical”.

  11. Centristian says:

    Regarding the concerns expressed about the breviary, does it matter, to the laity? Since we aren’t obliged to recite the hours, in any case, it certainly stands to reason that if one elects to pray the liturgical hours, one can use any edition one likes.

  12. Dr. Lee Fratantuono says:

    Re: the Breviary, the concerns I raised are valid for both clergy and laity. There are real problems with the 1962 Breviarium, problems that are in part because of the avowed temporary nature of the 1960 Codex Rubricarum, and in part because the main trend of “reform” of the Office during the 20th century was to shorten the Office by cutting things. On the macro level it’s part of questioning the 1962 fetishism that is founded more on the historical accident of the SSPX than sound liturgical principles.

    On a side note, I’m not entirely sure it’s a good idea to go in the “doesn’t matter if you’re not obligated” direction. Here Paul VI’s “Laudis canticum” is important. The Office isn’t just the province of the clergy, of those obliged to say it. The laity, too, who participate in it should care about the rubrics and praying with the Church, as it were, and not doing their own thing.

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