Wherein Fr. Z offers a cautionary tale to those who struggle with liturgical conundra.

The site of the CMAA, Musica Sacra Forum, published response to the 29 – yes, twenty-nine – dubia submitted to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”.

The questioner is a Polish priest, I assume young, working on a doctorate.

Folks, I get it.  I get that some people want official clarity and black and white rules about some things.  However, I have this to say to those who perhaps are less inclined to handle fluidity according to the genius of the Roman Rite.

The young can be reckless because, not having scars and mended bones, they don’t yet get it.

Right now… right now… it is ill-advised, imprudent, not to say playing with fire to submit any sort of question about traditional liturgical matters to the Holy See… unless… unless… you are darn sure of the answer in advance.

AND… learn how to ask questions!

It is not that I distrust the collaborators of the Pontifical Commission.  On the contrary, I hold them in esteem.  But, they are not the only people in Rome.

It is better right now to leave sleeping dogs lie.   To put it another way, it’s reckless… right now… to ask.

The answers are a mixed bag.  Some good.  Some less good.  But, I hope you all get my drift.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Like querying the BATF if something is okay…Just. Don’t. Do. It. Period.

  2. Kenneth Wolfe says:

    It is only reckless if the requestor goes public with the bad answer.

    I received a bad answer once from PCED — which was completely contradicted (Deo gratias!) in one of the new 29 answers today — and buried that bad answer.

    Just because someone in a position of authority tells you something does not obligate you to announce it to the world. Think…before posting!

    [You made my argument for me.]

  3. Colm says:

    I read through them worried that it contained something horrible but didn’t find anything. What are the “less good” ones?

  4. Fr. Z is exactly right. I know a priest who, some years before Summorum Pontificum, sent in a dubium about the (then) indult EF Mass. He really got burned. Fathers (and layfolk), you probably don’t need a definitive answer to most of your questions. Remember, in dubiis libertas.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  5. nighm says:

    I disagree.

    Their response to question 21 is relevant to the matter at hand:
    “Such decrees may be considered strictly binding of [sic] they are of a perceptive nature and are general (rather than particular).”

    Since the responses in question are given in a private letter, they do not have any force for anyone else but the recipient and so should not be a cause of fear. Now obviously if the reasons given make sense, and they are merely reaffirming what is already contained in laws, general decrees and instructions, then one should accept them as one accepts existing norms. The most helpful responses to me seem to be where they indicate the sorts of permissions that are usually granted since they are the only ones who can answer that sort of question.

  6. TonyO says:

    What struck most oddly about this whole exercise is: “This guy is writing a doctoral dissertation? He obviously doesn’t know how to do his homework (re the questions that have existing answers already), and he clearly doesn’t know how to ask dubia (cf the open-ended questions that could use a page (or a book) to answer). He seems, more than anything else, to be like a college sophomore who has found someone else to do his homework for him so he doesn’t have to. Oh, sure, he’ll dip his toe in a bit to make it look good, but really he just wants the cut and dried answers and nuts to nuance, to realms of permissive non-rules, to accepting ambiguity as part of life. Really, does he have nobody near him who has already been saying the EF for decades who could direct him on this stuff? One might wonder if he might have been the kind of person who is the object of ire in the Pope’s “unreconstructed manualist” accusation, if only he had ever been constructed to begin with.

  7. Matt R says:

    To Father Augustine’s point: someone shut down the Sarum liturgies celebrated occasionnally by Fr Seán Finnegan after writing, as the CDW official not only said no, but lambasted them for not using the best form of the Latin liturgy, the Pauline missal itself.

  8. Kenneth Wolfe says:

    Colm — I did an analysis here yesterday morning, if you seek opinions on the good and the bad. It should be noted there was very little bad. https://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2018/11/pced-anticipated-masses-sspx-affiliated.html

    [The responses were given in a private letter to him and have no effect beyond… him. Moreover, I’ll wager he was not authorized to publish anything of it.]

  9. bwfackler says:

    Could question 12 be interpreted to include the Priestly Society of Saint Josaphat Kuntsevych (SSJK)? They are not a religious order but a priestly fraternity of Greek-rite priests in Ukraine associated with the FSSPX. They receive seminary instruction from FSSPX priests and ordination from FSSPX bishops.

    [The responses were given in a private letter to him and have no effect beyond… him. Moreover, I’ll wager he was not authorized to publish anything of it.]

  10. Uxixu says:

    I am curious how far up the chain that’s really going. The pre-1955 Holy Week is glorious and was extremely moved by it and something I would have never expected a Pontifical commission to allow that (even though it makes perfect since since the 1955 & 1962 changes were admitted by Bugnini, etc to be transitional to what they got with the novus ordo) . I would really prefer about the whole 1948 Missal (of which I was able to obtain an altar missal, the copy of which we used by the FSSP in LA for the chanting of the 12 Prophecies), octaves and everything.

  11. Kenneth Wolfe says:

    Sorry for the third post on one thread, but readers need clarification on this: [I not sure they do. Not really. And, in fact, the less time spent trying to put every possible nail into every possible board will not help anyone. Thus, my point.]
    “[The responses were given in a private letter to him and have no effect beyond… him. Moreover, I’ll wager he was not authorized to publish anything of it.]”
    Question 22 to PCED was: “What are the responses of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei to matters regarding the liturgy in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite? Do they have a rank equal to the decrees (Decreta Authentica …) of the Sacred Congregation of Rites?”
    PCED answer to question 22: “Affirmative, subject to the criteria referenced to above.”
    The criteria above stated: “Such decrees [Decrees. Cf. Universae Ecclesiae, for one.]may be considered strictly binding of (sic) they are of a perceptive nature and are general (rather than particular).”
    So, PCED has declared its decrees binding if they are general in nature. For instance, the question about so-called anticipated TLMs is general in nature (as opposed to specific to the requestor). Therefore, the PCED response stating only the current day’s propers can be used is binding, as the nature is general.
    Do you not agree that PCED’s answers on the universal (that is, not specific to a private situation (my upcoming Requiem rites and program, for example) questions are universally binding? Weren’t/aren’t the SCR decrees universally binding?
    Lastly, PCED has stated in the past that it cannot control the public posting of its responses. Never have I seen a “ban” on publication imposed, at least to any of my requests. Have you?

    [Let’s just say that I have my own way of consulting the PCED. I repeat: The responses were given in a private letter to him and have no effect beyond… him. AND, he was not authorized to publish anything of it. Was he prohibited, no. However, experience and prudence teaches us over time. That said: the responses can be taken by those with good will and used in implementing the celebration of the Traditional Rite without jeopardizing the rite’s flexibility or integrity.]

  12. (Man walks into a room, thinking to himself…)

    “I don’t know why she told me to mind the dog. I’m not going to bother the dog. Why does she tell me these things?

    “And what makes her say the dog could bite me? What a cute dog that is! I’m sure she’s overreacting, she always does…

    “I’m sure it’s just that she doesn’t know the right way to approach a dog. She’s all nervous and agitated; that gets the dog agitated. That’s a fine looking dog, and I’m sure with the right approach, he’ll respond well…

    “Wake up big fella! What a nice dog you are…YEOOOOWWWWW!”

  13. The Egyptian says:

    Fr Z you wrote “The young can be reckless because, not having scars and mended bones, they don’t yet get it.”
    This is why commanding officers tend to be older more experienced men, however, there are times when youth has the audacity to carry the day, to do the impossible when prudence says wait, stop, cower, stand in the shadows. Not saying what this young man did was prudent, but sometimes,,, well you never know
    Like the old saying, “there is no one more fearsome that a p—-d off 19 year old marine”, us old guys stand in awe. [Yut!]
    spoken as a 59 year old father of 4, preparing to bury my 84 year old father this Saturday, watching my 20 year old son take over the dairy farm, God bless the youth, we need them

    [Of course. However, some categories are confused. If something is done from prudence, then one doesn’t “cower”. Cowering is done from fear. Also, rashness and foolhardiness are not virtuous or courageous in the best sense. , We can now close this rabbit hole.]

  14. Canon 16 §3 makes clear that:

    “An interpretation in the form of a judicial sentence or of an administrative act in a particular matter, however, does not have the force of law and only binds the persons for whom and affects the matters for which it was given.

    This is what the PCED refers to when it says that its responses are binding when they are general.

    The PCED knows how to publish general binding interpretations if it wants to publish interpretations. This (along with many responses from the PCED) is not published.

    Think about this logically, there’s no way people can be bound by decrees that they don’t know about and they can’t be responsible for knowing about them if they’re not published.

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