21 August 2008

Pontifical truths

I gather one or two readers of my last post have read it as a typically Anglican attempt to find excuses for anti-papalism. Far from it: since the occasion more than fifty years ago, when I joined the Catholic League in the days of the formidably papalist Fr Fynes-Clinton and subscribed the decrees of Trent and Vatican I, I have understood and accepted the distinctions implicit in Pastor Aeternus between ex cathedra and non ex cathedra papal pronouncements.

The intention of my last post was to suggest by microanalysis what none other than Joseph Ratzinger asserted by macroanalysis in 1999: that the use of papal authority to put through the post-Conciliar liturgical 'reforms' was flawed; that it was in fact closer to an abuse than a use. 'After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an ecumenical council. Eventually, the idea of the givenness of the liturgy, the fact that one cannot do with it what one will, faded from the public consciousness of the West. In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope's authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to liturgy ... The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition'.

It is my intuition that this is what lies at the heart of Benedict XVI's liturgical policies, of 'liberating' the 'old' Mass and glossing the new one by a hermeneutic of continuity with the old. Like some other people, I have begun to wonder whether this situation creates a different methodology for observing the rubrics of the 'new' rite. The policy advocated by Fr Zed, of 'saying the black and doing the red', arose from a contemplation of abuses introduced into the 'new' rite. I think it is now worth raising the question of whether it is appropriate to allow practices deeply traditional in the EF to bed themselves into the OF even when the actual rubrics suggest otherwise.

J O'Connell in the 1940 edition of The Celebration of Mass (Vol I pp 30-2) wrote 'Even a usage contra legem can obtain the force of custom, even against the rubrics ... the Sacred Congregation of Rites has never declared that no usage which is contrary to the rubrics may ever become a custom ... and from time to time it has not only tolerated usages contra or praeter legem but has actually approved them, and sometimes even ordered them to be observed.'

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