18 April 2016


The preoccupation among academics, for well over a century, with the 'problem' that the Roman Canon "lacks a theology of the Spirit" has, it seems to me, closed off some interesting lines of theological enquiry. For example: why is it that the Holy Spirit is absent from the NT narratives of the Last Supper and the Passion and Resurrection (except, just possibly, at John 19: 30)? He is central to all the accounts of the Lord's Baptism; and in the teaching of S Paul and S John about Christian Initiation (we receive the sphragis marking us with chrisma of the Spirit as a guarantee that we God's). In the classical Roman Rite, there is no shyness about involving the Holy Spirit in the formulae for Confirmation and for the Consecration of the Chrism. Might there be an interesting theological reason why, in the New Testament as in the immemorially ancient Roman Rite, each of the Persons of the Holy Trinity is involved in Baptism/Confirmation, while the Supper/Passion involves solely the sacrificial movement of the Son to His Father? The Classical Roman Rite might have unfolded fruitful truths to us, had its mouth not been stoppered by 'scholars' who preferred to be distracted by a different agenda.

My own, rather Patrimonial, view is that the liturgical forms we have inherited from so early in Christian history, particularly the Canon Romanus, have an authority similar to that of the other divine gifts which secured a normative status in those same early centuries, such as the Canon [i.e. official list] of books in the Bible; the three-fold Apostolic Ministry of Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons; the Petrine Ministry. (Readers who wish to follow up my views on all this could look up auctoritas on the search engine.) These things are prescriptive in very much the same sort of way as S Prosper explained (see the first instalment of this post). So the Lex supplicandi should establish [statuat] the Lex credendi.

I am a trifle uneasy about the way in which Pius XII flirted (Mediator Dei, 1947) with the notion of reversing this formula so as to make the Law of Believing establish the Law of Praying, and of retaining both versions in, as it were, creative tension. This could easily relegate the Law of Praying to the humble status of a resource occasionally plundered by those drafting pontifical documents and needing proof-texts to bolster up a weak argument. This demotion of the Law of Praying seems indeed to be precisely what happened in the disordered years after the Council, when the levers of liturgical power in the Church fell into the hands of a tendenz determined to make their own presuppositions the dominant norm according to which liturgical texts would be judged and changed or even (as in the rite for the Consecration of bishops and by the provision of Alternative Eucharistic Prayers) dumped.

An expression of this desire to make the Lex credendi determine the Lex orandi (rather than the correct way round) can be found in the Decree of 1951 ordering a new Office for August 15: " ... congruum erat ut etiam Officium iis adornatum esset laudibus, quae Deiparae Virgini ob definitum corporeae Assumptionis dogma merito tribuendae erant".

As so often, when one really looks into matters, Pius XII turns out to be real progenitor of the "Post-Conciliar Reforms". Hannibal Bugnini forsaw this very clearly when he wrote in 1956 that the pope who had been, first, the Restorer of the Vigil and then the Restorer of Holy Week, would become the Supreme Restorer of the entire sacred Liturgy (totius sacrae Liturgiae Summus Instaurator).

We did not and do not need a Supreme Restorer of the entire Liturgy. We need a recovery of respect for the ancient liturgical texts so that they can form the beliefs of the worshipping community. The first step in true liturgical restoration should be, not so much the immediate prohibition of the entire Novus Ordo as the immediate outlawing of those Cuckoo's Eggs in the Roman Liturgy: the unRoman and orientalising Alternative Eucharistic Prayers.


Stephen said...

It's not like Easterners were foaming at the mouth exhorting Popes and their minions to trash their own liturgical patrimony. Rather, the liturgical self-desecration was purely a weird, solely Western exercise, and is one more ultra-montane chicken coming home to roost at the feet of the Supreme Legislator. If he's supreme, then there can be no check, and whatever the Pope of today may do, the Pope of tomorrow may undo - and to what recourse do the faithful hoi polloi have amidst all this to and fro, other than to accept it as being within the purview of the Popes to bind and to loose? None. Nada. Nichts. Their last bastion was indeed the great antiquity of the Roman Rite, and what better way to blow that up than by having a Pope purposely reverse the ancient principle of the rule of faith being dependent on the rule of prayer?

There is the scenario that he's not the Supreme Legislator. But his power is supreme, immediate and universal, as per Pastor Aeternus, which is binding on the faithful, so that's off the table. So the effects of this conundrum will sadly perdure.

Timothy Graham said...

Fr H: "flirted with" the reversal of lex orandi, lex credendi in Mediator Dei? Isn't this being a trifle coy?

To Stephen above, "supreme, immediate and universal" refers I think to his primacy which is primacy of the college i.e. exercised with the college, and not primacy as something more than episcopal (Vatican I says the primacy is vere episcopalis). So the real question here is - what are the munera, the gifts & responsibility of the Pope in which he exercises primacy... B XVI obviously didn't think they extended to abrogating the ancient liturgy, and I wish we didn't abandon this ground so easily, to allow an interpretation sway that says - oh well, the Pope's doctrinal competence is limited by Tradition, but as for the rest he can do what he likes. Tradition is more than doctrine, it is its wellspring, and does the Pope really have the authority to squash and forbid it?

Stephen said...

I don't think you'll find much in either Pastor Aeternus or Lumen Gentium that looks to limit the Roman Pontiffs prerogatives in this regard. I'm open to correction, but the wording in both seem pretty clear that whatever he says regarding faith and morals, the faithful Catholic MUST adhere to. (My point is, that the eccelesiology of PA and LG represents a distinct trajectory of the west as it developed different from the east in the second millenium, and that this trajectory is also different from that of the first millenium; further, that this trajectory is responsible for what exists today regarding the West's appreciation for its own liturgical patrimony.)

This from article 25 of LG, for example: In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.

Timothy Graham said...

I think there is some very interesting stuff that emerges from the background of Vatican I to point in the direction of how the notion of such limits to the Pope's power might be developed. (1) Zinelli's official Relatio on the primacy, for example, explicitly stated that the superior ordinary power of the Pope is of the same kind as the bishops - which is the reason that the words "truly episcopal" ended up in the definition of the primacy... to say that the primacy is not something derived from the episcopal college as a kind of democratic legitimacy is one thing; but to say that it is super-episcopal, or that it can be exercised apart from the college, is an entirely different matter and goes against Vatican I & II. All the bishops share in the primacy, and Peter is primate by being part of the college: LG says that the authority of the bishops is "immediate", i.e. exercised in their own name, and not simply that of Peter. (2) The use of the term "ordinary" to describe the Pope's power is also explicitly addressed by Zinelli's Relatio - he says that if the Pope were conceived of having ordinary authority in other dioceses than his own, it would be "non in aedificationem sed in destructionem". There is a distinction to be made between munus and potestas... The munus, or the practical exercise of authority in the diocese, is that of the bishop, and is ordinary to the bishop - it is not the munus or gift/responsibility of the bishop of Rome; but the potestas or authority to act within another diocese is ordinary to the bishop of Rome, only when this is necessary because of a dereliction of duty of the bishop. In other words there is a definite limit to the usual exercise of the primacy in the notion of the gift or responsibility, munus, of each bishop, which (according to Catholic teaching) cannot be simply overridden by the Pope because he wishes. (3) Canon law explicitly states that when the ancient canons (such as Apostolic Canon 34) are reproduced in current canon law, they must be interpreted in the light of canonical tradition.

Sorry to be verbose, but the ammunition is there in both Vatican I & II as well as canon law to point towards the development of clear ideas as to how papal primacy is limited traditionally and in divine institution. If only highly placed, very learned and knowledgeable people would state this and publically challenge the current praxis of papal hegemony as NOT being of divine institution, and often running counter to canonical tradition AND divine institution (cf. Fr H's piece on bishops being forced to resign for no discernible heretical statements or moral delinquency, but simply because they are disliked by the Pope of his advisors).

As to the article 25 of LG, it is all well and good & I ought to listen to my bishop reverently and put the best reasonable construction on what he says. However Popes have talked heresy before now and there is no law in heaven or earth to compel me to assent to the Pope talking heresy or even nonsense. I have the divine Hooker on my side when I point out that common sense must get a look in somewhere too (and I have of course a very religious assent to Clement VIII's remarks about the Laws).

Stephen said...

Ah, that is the rub! Who has the authority to declare what is or is not heretical? Bellarmine thought he squared the circle by saying that the Pope is no longer Pope when should he speak heresy - but there again, who is to tell the Pope that he is no longer Pope because the teller thinks the Pope spoke heresy??

It's a bit of slippery slope. And, what with the sensus fidelium not at it's, er, peak, due to the liturgical changes the last 50 years, there is, as I stated, precious little (nothing, nada, nichts) for the faithful to have as a check or balance against a Pope running amok.

Ah, hubris. For nigh a thousand years, innovation, thy home is Rome.

Timothy Graham said...

There are two problems - one being infallibility, and the other the principles governing the Pope's exercise of authority in the Church. With regards to the latter, there are such principles & they are there in canon law and tradition. They should be stated clearly by those with competence when they are transgressed: it is their God-given responsibility. There is nothing in the definition of the Pope's primacy to say that he can do what he likes, his authority is episcopal and no more (PA) - what we have, sadly, is a supine acceptance that "that is how it is". As to the former, the idea of infallibility like the idea of any other form of authority is necessarily circular unless it is balanced against other forms of authority. That is why (if Kung says it is open season on infallibility) then carpe diem, please sensible people write theological papers on the conditions of its exercise and what would retrospectively invalidate a putatively infallible statement etc. This is a Pope who cares more about his authority than his infallibility, I think.

I don't want to tell the Pope he is no longer Pope - but like every other Christian, you and I have the authority to discern error inasmuch as the Holy Ghost has given us the gift of wisdom & a sound mind to know the truth.