Chad Glendinning quotes A S Sanchez-Gil as feeling that the Roman Missal, along with other liturgical books, cannot be reduced to a collection of liturgical laws. This is along the right lines, but does not, I feel, go nearly far enough. The great Anglican liturgist, Prebendary Michael Moreton, now striding eruditely through his nineties, sees the Canon Romanus - if I understood him aright in the six years during which we conversed - in a position not unlike that of the Canon of Scripture; a given in the Tradition which it is not for us to treat as disposable. He speaks of the Canon as having auctoritas given to it by tradition, which far surpasses the merely canonical, legalistic, authorisation, which fly-by-night 'Eucharistic Prayers' composed by the Top Experts of one single decade might have. I think it may be a coincidence - because Fr Michael, unlike me, is not a pedantic papalist who tries to keep up to date with the documents which flood out from Roman dikasteries - that his term auctoritas occurs also in John Paul II's instruction Ecclesia Dei. It is a profound term with roots deep in the sense of the Orthodox as well as of Traditionalist Catholics that there are weightier imperatives than Canon Law. I remind you of the startling fact that the Patriarch of Moskow welcomed Summorum pontificum as an ecumenically positive action.
Glendinning informs us that Summorum pontificum, if it is not an "imprecise use of canonical terminology" (really, Chad, who is the Supreme Legislator?), is "a rather overt denunciation of the pope's predecessors and of the praxis curiae". In a funny sort of way, I think this last bit is right. Benedict XVI is superseding the assumptions underlying the enactments of his predecessor Paul VI, and, unobserved by Glendinning, he is doing so on grounds which he had previously, before his election to the See of Peter, explained thoroughly lucidly in the two passages which I copied from his works in the second post of this series. Our Holy Father even restates the views of Cardinal Ratzinger, in the Letter to Bishops which accompanied Summorum pontificum: "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden forbidden". Note Cannot! We are talking about non potests rather than non licets. As for curial enactments, well, I think it has to be pointed out that the pope is not only, as Glendinning concedes, the Supreme Legislator, but, as Vatican I defined, also the Supreme Judge of the Church. If his statements in Summorum pontificum go contrary to what Roman dikasteries have prescribed or implied, this is surely analogous to a court of appeal overriding an earlier judgement by a legislator of inferior jurisdiction. (Or, if it isn't, why not?) J Baldovini, quoted by Glendinning, wrote that "even someone with supreme legislative authority cannot undo historic facts". But Benedict XVI is not misdescribing (or even describing) historical facts, I suggest, but defining what the deepest law of the church is. He bases himself upon a view of history, Theology, and law which is broader than the juridical bases of those previous enactments. That is in fact what makes his declaration so significant; so much more in line with a Catholic - and Orthodox - and Anglo-Catholic - concept of Liturgy.
I can't help wondering if Papa Ratzinger is subconsciously sketching, with a few strokes of his pencil, what an Orthodox Latin West might look like - and how an Orthodox papacy might function. It is all very well to have ecumenical commissions; but nothing would promote the unity of the two lungs of Christendom more than for Orthodox to be able to look at the actual life of the Roman Magisterium ... and to feel an uncanny sense that they were to a degree looking into a mirror. Of course, in human terms the odds are that few here in the Latin West will really understand his project; that the liturgical and moral anarchists, the homosexual ideologues and the feminists, will continue their frenzied denigrations of the old Bavarian gentleman; that in a few years he will be dead and his vision forgotten as the vaticanologists feverishly speculate on the 'policies' of his successor. But, in my eyes, for as long as it lasts it is exhilarating; Benedict's Age is a good age in which to be alive, an age of the very truest instauratio catholica. And, just possibly ... who knows ... after all, there is a God ...